Sharks

How Sharks rallied for Joe Pavelski, won 'craziest game' they've seen

How Sharks rallied for Joe Pavelski, won 'craziest game' they've seen

SAN JOSE -- To say the Sharks' future was bleak 9:13 minutes into the third period of Game 7 is quite the understatement.

They were down three goals to the Vegas Golden Knights and on the brink of Stanley Cup playoff elimination. Their captain, Joe Pavelski, had to be helped off the ice by three teammates after a cross-check left him in a heap on the ice. San Jose was about to go on an extended power play with its second season on the line, but it already had gone 0 of 4 on the man advantage in the game at that point.

What happened next was the kind of thing a Hollywood script writer might think up and then chuck to the side because it sounds too improbable: The Sharks scored four power-play goals and eventually won 5-4 in overtime Tuesday night at SAP Center.

“The group rallied,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told the press afterward. “Joe Thornton spoke up. Logan Couture. I think they saw a guy they love and respect in some distress, and wanted to do what they could to help the situation.”

Team Teal scored its four power-play goals in 4 minutes and 1 second, becoming just the second team in NHL history to overcome a three-goal deficit in the third period of a Game 7 and setting a franchise record for the fastest four goals scored. It was the perfect set-up for San Jose’s thunderous victory that closed the first-round series and allowed the team to advance.

“That’s the craziest game I’ve ever seen,” DeBoer admitted. “I think we’ll talk about that one for a long time here.”

The players echoed those sentiments.

“It has to be the top,” veteran Joe Thornton said. “For everybody in the whole building, for everybody witnessing, it was the best game I’ve ever been part of. Period.”

After San Jose completely change the tone with its four power-play goals, Vegas found the equalizer with just 47 seconds left in regulation, sending the game into overtime. The pace was relentless through extra hockey as both teams -- who already had gone to double overtime in Game 6 -- desperately tried to end the other’s playoff run. There were close calls on both ends of the ice, as goalies Martin Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury turned away multiple looks at the doorstep.

That is, until Barclay Goodrow grabbed a feed from Erik Karlsson and found room to beat Fleury for the game-winner, unleashing what probably was one of the longest goal horns ever sounded at SAP Center.

“To be honest, I can’t really remember what just happened,” Goodrow said during his post-game media scrum. “It was a surreal moment. Definitely the biggest goal of my career.”

[RELATED: Sharks-Avalanche second-round series preview]

With that career-making goal and the win, Goodrow and the Sharks erased a three-games-to-one deficit to claim the series with their Pacific Division rivals. Not a bad response for a team rallying behind its injured captain.

“The boys, they got together and said, ‘This is for Pavs,’ ” Thornton said with a tinge of sadness in his voice. “We love him, and it was just a matter of will, and we built that one for him.”

Said DeBoer: “This is a special group that way. We’ve rallied like that all year, at different points. Even early in the series here, we were down 3-0 [in Game 2], people have written them off. Or down 3-1 in the series. There’s a lot of belief in there.”

NHL.com snubs Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 as best game of 2010s

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NHL.com snubs Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 as best game of 2010s

NHL.com named a Game 7 ending 5-4 and involving a three-goal comeback, two division rivals and an overtime winner as the best game of the 2010s.

It just wasn't the one with the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights. 

NHL.com and NHL.com International staff members chose the Boston Bruins' Game 7 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference first-round series during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the game of the decade. In a 9:18 span, the Bruins erased a 4-1 deficit to force overtime and Patrice Bergeron scored the winner 6:05 into the extra frame. 

An epic comeback in a game between two "Original Six" rivals is, on paper, worthy of the crown. But Sharks-Golden Knights is more deserving. 

For one, San Jose and Vegas were much closer in terms of quality than Boston and Toronto. Yes, the Golden Knights jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the 2019 Western Conference first-round series and fewer standings points separated the Bruins and Maple Leafs (five) than the Sharks and Knights (eight). However, the 2013 Maple Leafs greatly benefited from the lockout-shortened 48 game schedule, making the playoffs despite being the NHL's worst puck-possession team.

The Sharks and Golden Knights, on the other hand, were both legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Both finished the regular season in the NHL's top three in terms of shot share and shot quality. Had Vegas beaten San Jose, it's likely the expansion franchise would have played in a second Western Conference final in as many years. 

What unfolded on the ice in the third period in Boston doesn't hold a candle to the third period in San Jose last April. Then-captain Joe Pavelski's head bled as the result of a fluky collision with Golden Knights forwards Paul Stastny and Cody Eakin, leading to a highly disputed five-minute major penalty. The Sharks then matched an NHL record with four power-play goals on the non-releasable penalty, nearly blowing the roof off SAP Center. 

A 3-0 deficit turned into a 4-3 lead, but the Sharks couldn't escape regulation with a win. Then-Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant pulled goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and iced six forwards when Jonathan Marchessault scored the game-tying goal with 47 seconds remaining in the third period. That set up an overtime that lasted nearly 20 minutes before Barclay Goodrow sent San Jose to the second round, and the Sharks' win left the Golden Knights with a summer of animosity that made Vegas' decision to replace Gallant with fired San Jose coach Peter DeBoer so much more shocking. 

[RELATED: How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip]

To recap: Game 7 of Sharks-Golden Knights included one of the most controversial (or worst, if you ask Golden Knights fans) calls in NHL history, a historic power play that sent the SAP Center crowd into delirium, a game-tying goal that silenced the same crowd not even six minutes later and nearly a full period of extra hockey. 

By comparison, the twists and turns of Bruins-Maple Leafs seem rather straightforward. 

How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip

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How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip

That is not how the Sharks wanted to enter the All-Star break.

Coming off consecutive wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars, San Jose had a chance to reach the unofficial midway point of the regular season riding a massive wave of momentum, perhaps large enough to carry the team back to the postseason. All that sat between the Sharks and that development was a crucial three-game road trip against Western Conference foes.

At the very least, San Jose needed to keep its head above water. Instead, the Sharks drowned in disaster.

Facing the Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks -- all teams San Jose potentially would have to leapfrog to make the playoffs -- the Sharks reverted back to kind of performances that put them in such a deep hole in the first place.

San Jose was outscored 14-4 and outshot 117-73 over the course of the three games. Those two stats obviously are interconnected, but Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner pointed to another area of failure as a big reason for his team's struggles.

"The big difference this road trip is we've been horrible in the faceoff circle," Boughner said following the 4-1 loss in Vancouver on Saturday night. "You're never starting with the puck. Even in the offensive zone, you're chasing, and you can't chase pucks all night. That limits your possessions and tires you out."

Boughner's correct. The Sharks were thoroughly dominated in the faceoff circle over the course of the road trip, which might have had something to do with them scoring only one goal over its final six periods of play. San Jose won only 45.1 percent of the draws against the Coyotes, 45.6 percent against the Avalanche and only 38.0 percent against the Canucks.

It's only the third time this season the Sharks have won fewer than 49.0 percent of the draws in three straight games, and the most recent instance also coincided with a three-game losing streak. Whether it's shooting, scoring or simply gaining possession of the puck, Boughner is hoping the All-Star break will provide the Sharks with the needed respite to address their shortcomings.

"This is probably a great break for everybody, mentally," Boughner said. "Recharge the batteries and come back and try to forget about this week of hockey and put a good week in as soon as we get back."

[RELATED: Report: Wilson won't disrupt Sharks' core at trade deadline]

The Sharks' final week heading into the All-Star break was an unmitigated disaster. If they're still planning on qualifying for the postseason, they can't have any more like it.