VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Just once in San Jose Shark history, it would be nice to have an angst-free playoff series. As if it would ever happen.

As we all know, no such thing exists for our beloved Los Tiburones. The team specializes in never-easy victories and agonizing defeats. Wednesday night, it was the former. Yet, even though the Sharks prevailed by a score of 3-1 in Game 1 here Wednesday night against the Vancouver Canucks, there were the usual moments of torment and discomfort along the way.

Such as, say, when the Sharks found themselves trailing by a score of 1-0 halfway through the second period. They had dominated the first period but produced zero goals. Then they gave up a fluky score on a sequence where one of their own players -- the replay seemed to indicate Raffi Torres -- put the puck into Vancouver's net during a dogpile of a scrum.

San Jose Sharks’ Dan Boyle, right, celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks with teammate Joe Pavelski during the third period in game 1 of
San Jose Sharks' Dan Boyle, right, celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks with teammate Joe Pavelski during the third period in game 1 of an NHL Western Conference quarter-final playoff hockey series in Vancouver, British Columbia Wednesday May 1, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

"I think I might have put it in," Torres conceded after the game. "But, ultimately, we've got to do a better job of boxing them out."

Or just boxing them, period. Wednesday was a violent night, with unleashed intensity on both sides. But the upside for the Sharks was, they did not let the strange and bad-luck goal change their flow.

Often in past playoff series, in similar situations, the Sharks have become frustrated and started trying too hard, eventually giving up more goals. This time, the opposite happened. The Sharks stayed in control of their game and kept doing the little details correctly, over and over.


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This led to three goals and victory. Little-detail crisp passing on a power play and ... bang. Logan Couture tied the game. Bang. Little-detail grinding stuff by Tommy Wingels outside the crease and ... bang. Dan Boyle put the Sharks ahead, 2-1, on an alert scoop-up shot after the puck squirted to him from Wingels. Little-detail net-attack by Patrick Marleau and ... bang. He applied the finisher by sending the puck over the line off the stick of a Vancouver defenseman.

"We weren't too cute," said Boyle. "We weren't too fancy."

"That's playoff hockey," said Shark captain Joe Thornton. "I thought we had a great first period. They had a better second period. And we were able to capitalize in the third."

If you didn't know better, you'd think the Sharks had done this many times before. Not so. The last time they won a Game 1 in a playoff series by more than one goal was in 2007 at Detroit, 2-0. They've been in 11 playoff series since then. But they've never had the luxury of holding a two-goal lead into the final minutes.

What does it mean? We'll see in Game 2 on Friday night. Between now and then, the two teams will be icing down their bruises. The Sharks and Canucks came out skating hard -- but hitting harder. And then even harder. It was as if both teams wanted to disprove their leaguewide reputation as alleged "soft" teams.

Wednesday night, softness took the ferry to Victoria Island. The slamming and thudding could be heard all the way to the rafters of Rogers Arena. And there were consequences. The Sharks' Martin Havlat suffered some sort of injury in the first period and never returned to the ice. Vancouver's Ryan Kesler, who missed games during the regular season with a broken foot, took some blows and kept pushing but did not appear to be moving with his usual effectiveness.

Boyle said the physicality was no surprise.

"I think that's just Game 1 in every series," Boyle explained. "Both teams are so excited to get going."

"You know, the night before, you're sitting in your hotel room watching the other games," said Shark centerman Joe Pavelski. "And you're seeing the intensity. You're ready for that."

Said Torres, who provided some of the major thudding: "When you play in a tough building like this, with so many good 'D' men on the other team, you really have got to make it uncomfortable for them."

The Sharks' persistence in violence, however, was the most impressive thing. After the second-period lull that Thornton mentioned, they found a way to rev up the engines again and score the two muck-it-up goals that were the difference.

In so doing, they were able to solve Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, the surprise starter for the Canucks in replacement of Cory Schneider. He's out with a mysterious "body injury," according to Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault.

Luongo, the Canucks' backup goalie, has had his ups and downs over the last few years but he was excellent Wednesday. He made several highlight saves during the Sharks' two first-period power plays, sparking hearty name-check salutes of "Loooooooooo" from the upper deck. He stopped everything he saw, with the exception of Couture's laser shot. And then the Sharks created havoc in front of him for the two other goals.

Non-cute and non-fancy is definitely the way to go from here forward against the Canucks. As a bonus, it might ease the Sharks' playoff anxiety. But don't count on that. Non-anxiety is not a franchise tradition.