Patrick Marleau scored twice in the first period, and Antti Niemi made the early lead stand up with 27 saves to get the host San Jose Sharks back into the Western Conference final with a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 last night.

Ryane Clowe and Dan Boyle also scored and Joe Thornton had three assists for the Sharks, who still trail the series, 2-1, after winning a conference final game on home ice for the first time in franchise history.

San Jose looked like a completely different team from the one that was outscored, 10-5, in losing the first two games in Vancouver. The Sharks scored three times in the first period and had 15 of the first 16 shots on goal to snap an eight-game losing streak in the conference final, including a sweep last year to Chicago.

Game 4 is tomorrow in San Jose.

Alexandre Burrows, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa scored in the third period for the Canucks, who were unable to overcome their slow start or capitalize on big chances in the second.

The Canucks nearly rallied from a three-goal deficit, thanks to a 5-minute boarding call on Jamie McGinn against Aaron Rome that led to power-play goals from Hamhuis and Bieksa to cut San Jose's lead to 4-3 with 3:56 remaining. But the Canucks couldn't get the equalizer as they were hurt by a late penalty by Bieksa - his third of the game.


* The death of New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard was an accident, caused by a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkiller oxycodone.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner announced Boogaard's cause of death yesterday, saying it was unclear exactly when the 28-year-old died. Boogaard was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment last Friday, 5 months after he suffered a season-ending concussion with the Rangers.

The medical examiner said no private data on Boogaard would be released, but a statement his family issued through the National Hockey League Players' Association indicated the 6-7 Boogaard had been struggling with pain and addiction.

"After repeated courageous attempts at rehabilitation and with the full support of the New York Rangers, the NHLPA and the NHL, Derek had been showing tremendous improvement but was ultimately unable to beat this opponent," the family said. "While he played and lived with pain for many years, his passion for the game, his teammates, and his community work was unstoppable."

Boogaard's funeral will be held today in Regina, Saskatchewan.

* Winnipeg's mayor says it's just "a matter of time" before a deal to move the Atlanta Thrashers to his city is finalized and announced. Mayor Sam Katz said yesterday the deal to bring an NHL team back to Winnipeg is going to happen, though nothing is signed and sealed yet.

* The Phoenix Coyotes have signed free-agent center Petteri Nokelainen to a 1-year contract. Financial terms of the deal weren't released. It's Nokelainen's second stint with Phoenix. He played last season for Jokerit Helsinki in his native Finland.