Wednesday was a night of firsts for Erik Karlsson.
The Sharks' 5-4 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of the Western Conference final began with the defenseman's first playoff goal for San Jose 13:37 into the contest. Karlsson's first-ever Stanley Cup playoff overtime goal ended the extra session 5:23 in, sealing his first-ever two-goal game with the Sharks and San Jose's two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series.
"Huge, huge game," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said in St. Louis on Wednesday when a reporter asked about Karlsson's performance. "The guys we needed to step up tonight stepped up tonight. Joe Thornton, Erik Karlsson ... When you lose a game in the playoffs, [in] the response game you need your best players to be your best players, and I thought [Karlsson] was excellent."
Like Thornton, Karlsson had the first multi-goal game of his playoff career at Enterprise Center on Wednesday. Karlsson hit that mark in 111 fewer postseason games than the beareded Sharks center, but he still had to break an extended drought of his own.
The defenseman had not scored a goal since Dec. 29 against the Edmonton Oilers. Karlsson had played 31 regular-season and playoff games in the meantime, missing time with two different groin injuries. In those 31 intervening games, Karlsson attempted 202 shots, according to Natural Stat Trick. Eighty-one of those shots were on net, but none managed to cross the goal line.
Blues forward Patrick Maroon blocked Karlsson's first shot Wednesday night 1:37 into Game 3. After intercepting a St. Louis clearing attempt in San Jose's offensive zone, Karlsson went top shelf on screened Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington exactly 12 minutes later.
"It feels good to score a goal, but at the end of the day it's nice to get the win," Karlsson told reporters in St. Louis. "I think we stuck with it today. We know we didn't play our best game so far, but we still got a win and that's all that matters."
The Sharks were out-attempted and outshot in 5-on-5 situations Wednesday night, and lost the special-teams battle after going 0-for-1 on the power play and the penalty kill.
The Blues were down two goals headed into the second period and again 1:36 into the middle frame thanks to Thornton's second tally of the night, but headed into the third period with a 4-3 lead. That's because St. Louis seized control of the game in the second stanza, doubling San Jose's 5-on-5 shot attempts (31-15, per Natural Stat Trick) and scoring chances (8-4).
But the Sharks pushed back in the third period, creating five high-danger chances in all situations compared to the Blues' one. Logan Couture's 14th goal of the postseason tied Game 3 with only 1:01 remaining, ultimately giving Karlsson an opportunity to end it.
With Karlsson on the ice at full strength, San Jose had fewer shot attempts, shots and scoring chances than St. Louis and allowed two goals. Still, the Sharks had more dangerous chances than the Blues during Karlsson's 5-on-5 shifts, and the two-time Norris Trophy-winner was on the ice for all but one of his team's goals.
"We stuck with it today," Karlsson told NBCSN's Pierre McGuire after the game. "They battled a little bit harder than we did. We didn't really have it. I think we had a good first period, and then we kind of stepped off the gas a bit and gave it to them. It was like 'The Longest Yard' out there today, that's what the game felt like."
Karlsson told McGuire he had not seen the replay when he was asked if Timo Meier had passed the puck with his hand to Gustav Nyquist before Nyquist set up the game-winning goal. He later told reporters he thought the Sharks "deserved to win Game 3," and that "neither team drew the short stick on any of the calls out there."
The controversial goal was Karlsson's 15th point this postseason, and he is now tied with teammates Brent Burns and Timo Meier for third in the playoffs. Only two other Sharks defensemen -- Burns (twice) and Dan Boyle -- have scored as many points as Karlsson in a single playoff run.
And after his night of firsts, the Sharks are now two wins away from another one for the Swedish defenseman: an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.