It's pretty simple NHL math: If you can't beat a team when you have one more man on the ice than it does, you aren't going to stop it when you have two fewer.
The first part of the equation was as decisive as the second for the San Jose Sharks in Sunday's 4-2 loss to Vancouver.
The Canucks gave San Jose a huge opportunity early in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals -- seemingly intent on making it a continuation of Game 3, when they racked up 31 penalty minutes and allowed three power-play goals in a 4-3 Sharks win. Five times in the first 23 minutes Sunday, Vancouver gifted San Jose a man advantage.
Five times, San Jose came up empty.
The power-play outage had two consequences: First, as coach Todd McLellan said, "It sucked some life" out of the Sharks; second, as forward Ryane Clowe said, after five consecutive calls go one way, "you've got a feeling one or two are coming back against you."
Sometimes, that happens because of makeup calls. On Sunday, "officiating had absolutely nothing to do with it," McLellan said. San Jose simply got frustrated and started making bad decisions that led players to the penalty box.
And when they did -- four times in a span of less than three minutes in the second period -- the Canucks scored three quick 5-on-3 goals.
"Against a team like this, 5-on-3, you've got no chance," Clowe said.
San Jose actually did stop two of them in Game 3. But Clowe's right: Against an offense like the Canucks', that shouldn't happen.
Remember playing those old NHL video games on the Genesis? How there was always a play, and it usually involved a one-timer, on which you could score every single time? That's what Vancouver looked like with the two-man advantage. The play started with Henrik Sedin near the goal line to Sharks goalie Antti Niemi's left. Sedin passed to defenseman Sami Salo up top. The first time, Salo made an extra pass to Ryan Kesler for a one-timer goal; the next two, Salo one-timed it himself.
It seemed so easy, and that's how it should seem when five top offensive players -- Salo and forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Kesler and Alexandre Burrows -- are together on a power play.
So why didn't it look that way for the Sharks? They've got pretty decent offensive players. They were second (to Vancouver) in the league on the power play during the regular season and converted six of their first seven in this series, before going 0-for-their-past-11.
And they were the better team at even strength Sunday, outshooting the Canucks 26-7 and outscoring them 2-1 at 5-on-5.
What was the problem at 5-on-4?
"We obviously weren't sharp," McLellan said. "When you look at our execution, our passing, our face-off opportunities ... when you're against the No. 1 penalty kill in the league, you have to be sharp and we weren't.
"You get more and more frustrated. You start to press a little bit. It snowballs -- gets worse and worse."
Vancouver, which actually had only the third-best regular-season penalty kill and is third among the four teams left in the playoffs (guess who's fourth?), did its part to take San Jose's power play down a notch. The Canucks attacked the puck in transition and didn't let the Sharks comfortably set up in the offensive zone.
"They tightened things up," McLellan said. "They stood at their line a little bit better."
Defenseman Dan Boyle had a more Sharks-deprecating view: "They adjusted. We didn't. We can adjust. But we didn't."
"Yesterday, you guys were asking me why the power play was so hot," Boyle said. And Sunday? "It was just gone."
That simple, and that decisive.