SAN JOSE -- Sharks coach Peter DeBoer had "no update medically" on injured captain Joe Pavelski after San Jose's 5-4 overtime win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night.
With 10:47 remaining in the third period of the final game of the first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, Pavelski was helped off the SAP Center ice after hitting his head on the ice. Pavelski collided awkwardly with Golden Knights forward Paul Stastny, moments after his teammate, Cody Eakin, shoved the Sharks captain following a face-off in the Sharks' offensive zone.
DeBoer was asked if Pavelski needed to be hospitalized, but he said he did not know if the Sharks forward left the arena after the collision. Pavelski's series ended with four points in seven games. He played the majority of the series with a shield on the lower half of his face, after scoring a goal with his face in the Sharks' Game 1 win over the Golden Knights.
In the immediate aftermath, Eakin was assessed a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct. The Sharks trailed 3-0 at that point, and DeBoer said alternate captains Joe Thornton and Logan Couture spoke up right away.
"The leadership's the best I've ever been around," DeBoer said in his postgame press conference. "Joe goes down, Joe Thornton immediately is talking to the guys, 'Let's get three goals here on this power play.' He actually said that, and we got four."
While Thornton implored his teammates to take advantage of the penalty in Pavelski's absence, the SAP Center crowd initially booed the Golden Knights following the collision. The boos turned to stunned silence as Pavelski was attended to, but the Sharks needed just seven seconds to re-energize them when Couture put San Jose on the board.
"They helped us early, too, when we score the first goal," Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said of the crowd, "and pushed us to tie it up."
The crowd got louder when Hertl halved the Vegas lead with another power-play goal. They were louder still when Couture scored his second of the evening, and arguably at their loudest when Kevin Labanc capped off a four-points-in-four-minutes stretch with his second goal of the series to give the Sharks their first lead of the evening -- and the first lead change from any deficit in the series.
"Once we got that fourth goal, the whole building just erupted," Labanc said.
The Sharks had come back without their captain, but their 4-3 lead was erased 47 seconds shy of a Game 7 regulation victory. Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault tied the score with Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury pulled.
When the Sharks returned to the locker room before the extra session, Hertl said the team focused on the positives.
"We [said], 'Hey, guys -- what we just did is amazing,’ “ Hertl recalled. "We're losing 3-0, come back. Let's finish it. We don't want to play last game of the season. And everybody stepped up."
That included, as Hertl noted, game-winning goal-scorer Barclay Goodrow, who sent the Golden Knights packing with 1:41 remaining in overtime. His second goal of the series came on his second shift of overtime.
That goal capped off the Sharks' historic comeback, and San Jose ultimately responded to the loss of its captain with a win to keep its season alive. DeBoer said he didn't need to push many buttons, and credited leaders such as Couture and Thornton for kick-starting the victory.
"I'm very fortunate as a coach to be around people like that," DeBoer said. "You don't have to say a lot. They're driving the bus."
The Sharks will open their second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday at SAP Center. San Jose will not practice Wednesday, but all eyes will be on Pavelski's health once the team returns to the ice.
Hertl and Labanc sounded optimistic that Pavelski will be able to join them at some point in the series, but what the Sharks did in his absence soon won't be forgotten.