Vancouver Canucks Throwback: Kevin Bieksa sinks the Sharks

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 24: Kevin Bieksa
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 24: Kevin Bieksa /

In Game 5 of the 2011 Western Conference Final, Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa sent the team to their first Stanley Cup in 17 years. We re-live that moment in this week’s edition of Throwback Thursday.

After the Vancouver Canucks were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks for the second consecutive year in 2010, general manager Mike Gillis quickly went to work.

Trying to build a team to get past the second round, Gillis traded for quick-moving defenceman Keith Ballard, signed B.C. boy Dan Hamhuis plus grinders Raffi Torres and Manny Malhotra. Vancouver was finally well-designed to win the Western Conference.

The moves paid off, to say the least. Vancouver won its first Presidents’ Trophy (it wasn’t even close), and they scored the most goals (262), while allowing the fewest (185). All signs pointed to the Canucks finally getting through to the Stanley Cup Final.

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It all started with Alexandre Burrows‘ heroic Game 7 goal in overtime to eliminate Chicago, who manage.

Up next? The pesky Nashville Predators, who gave Vancouver a huge run for their money. Nonetheless, the Canucks just barely got through the Preds in the second round.

That set up a Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks.

Though it appeared to be a fairly even match on paper, the Canucks were simply faster, stronger and more energized than the Sharks.

Vancouver took the first two games at home, then split a pair of matches in San Jose. That meant the Canucks had the chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 17 years.

The Sharks took a 2-1 lead in the third period, but Ryan Kesler tied things up in the final seconds to force overtime:

That sent Vancouver into a frenzy, but they still needed to score one more goal before the celebration could start. The first overtime frame went scoreless, as Canucks fans held onto the edge of their seats — anticipating that big goal.

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Kevin Bieksa — who had just six goals all season long — got the chance to put his name in hockey lore. He took advantage of the opportunity, scoring one of the weirdest series-clinching goals you’ll ever see:

Just like that, the Canucks finally overcame years of playoff frustration to reach the Stanley Cup Final. That would set up a match against the Boston Bruins, one that obviously erased the terrific 2010-11 regular season Vancouver had put together.

But nonetheless, Bieksa’s goal continues to live on as one of the most historic in franchise history. Many young fans (myself included), had never seen Vancouver win the Western Conference, so this was a moment in itself.

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Yes, they failed to win the 2011 Stanley Cup and it’s hard to forget. Yes, they aren’t close to contending again any time soon. But for all the years of frustration in this team’s history, Kevin Bieksa gave the Vancouver Canucks a moment to celebrate — one that we will always remember.