SAN JOSE -- Two third-period goals nine seconds apart put the Vancouver Canucks in a deep hole. A third one a little more than two minutes later buried them.
Maybe for good.
After two tight games at Rogers Arena, the Sharks are on the brink of their first playoff sweep in franchise history after dominating the Canucks 5-2 Sunday night at HP Pavilion.
What had been another close contest through two periods was blown open over a 2:27 span on rapid-fire goals by Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and then Couture again.
"When you score goals that quick, it's tough on the bench, it's tough on the goalie. It ruins his confidence a little bit," said Couture, who added two assists for a career-best four point night in the postseason. "You could feel the building pick up energy, and their team sank a little bit."
Two goals by Joe Pavelski -- one with a two-man advantage, the other at even strength -- had staked the Sharks to a 2-0 lead, but the Canucks had cut that in half on a goal by Alex Burrows at 11:07 of the second period, setting the stage for the third-period outburst.
All of the Sharks goals came against Cory Schneider as Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault inserted him into the lineup in place of Roberto Luongo, who had played well -- but not well enough to win -- in the first two games.
Schneider was strong down the stretch for Vancouver but missed the first two playoff games with an undisclosed injury. Healthy again, he got the nod from his coach -- a move that was fine with the Sharks, according to captain Joe Thornton.
"We felt Lou was playing great. We felt we were lucky not to be playing against him, to be honest with you," Thornton said of Luongo, who replaced Schneider after Couture's second goal made it 5-1 at 4:07 of the third period.
San Jose began the final 20 minutes with a man advantage, as Jannik Hansen was in the penalty box for cross-checking Thornton on a breakaway. With just five seconds left on the power play, Couture took a pass from Matt Irwin, headed up ice and scored on a 45-foot snap shot at 1:40.
On the same shift, Couture got the puck to Marleau heading toward the goal, and he got off a 10-foot wrist shot while falling to the ice that got past Schneider to make it 4-1 nine seconds later.
"He made a great play on the board where I was able to get inside," Marleau said of Couture. "Just kind of shielded my body a little bit and took it to the net."
Couture was again in the middle of things on the third goal in the sequence. High-sticked by Henrik Sedin to give the Sharks yet another power play at 3:46, Couture took a pass from Thornton and beat Schneider at 4:07 with a shot launched not too far from his earlier goal.
"The first one I was just trying to get it on net," Couture said, "and the second I was trying to go high glove and somehow it went five hole. I'll take it."
Dan Hamhuis scored for the Canucks at 13:12 for the game's final tally, but by then the outcome was clear.
The fact that Vancouver gave the Sharks eight power plays and San Jose was able to cash in on three of them was a vast improvement over Game 2, when the Sharks were 0 for 5 with a man advantage.
"Probably the difference at the end of the night is us being on the power play for almost 13 minutes," coach Todd McLellan said. They're taxing minutes when you're on the penalty kill all the time."
While Couture said he and his teammates weren't thinking of Tuesday night's game in terms of a sweep, he said the goal would be the same as always: a win.
And, no, he was not all that surprised the Sharks were ahead 3-0 in the series, no disrespect intended.
"I thought that if we played our best hockey, we'd be up 3-0," Couture said. "We know they're a good team. We didn't underestimate them, and they're going to be even better in Game 4."
The Sharks do know history is on their side. Only three NHL teams have come back from the situation Vancouver now faces to win a series.
Notebook: Scott Gomez returns after a two-game injury absence. Page 6
Antti Niemi solid in goal again with 28 saves. Page 6
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