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Sharks' Game 7 history in NHL playoffs filled with elation, heartbreak

Sharks' Game 7 history in NHL playoffs filled with elation, heartbreak

Sudden death. Instant life. Nothing in sports is more intense than overtime in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as we learned anew when in the Sharks’ thrilling and terrifying Game 6 overtime loss at Colorado on Monday.
 
That loss ratchets the intensity of the second round, best-of-seven series up even higher as we now confront a do-or-die scenario. A handshake will happen Wednesday night at SAP Center. What if this one also should go to extra time? The stress is fearsome to contemplate.

It seems impossible for Wednesday night's Game 7 to top the Sharks' last winner-take-all-game -- a mere 15 days ago -- where San Jose came back from three goals down late in the third period to stun Vegas in overtime. But with playoff hockey ... you never know.

Besides the history-making comeback vs. the Golden Knights last round, the Sharks and their fans have experienced the joy or heartbreak that accompanies a winner-take-all game 10 other times.

Here’s the history.

1994 first round: Sharks 3, Red Wings 2

It still ranks among the greatest upsets in NHL history. A tenacious Sharks group populated by castoffs and youngters made their first-ever playoff appearance.  

The offensive magic of aging Red Army legends Sergei Makarov and Igor Larionov. The toughness and savvy of veterans Bob Errey and Gaetan Duchesne. The talent and young legs of pups Sandis Ozolinsh and Ray Whitney. Ulf Dahlen digging pucks out of the corner. Arturs Irbe defending his net Like Wall.

This greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts collective defeated a Stanley Cup favorite stacked with future Hall of Famers Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Paul Coffey and Dino Ciccarelli -- and they did it in Detroit, to boot. 

At 13:25 of the third period, Jamie Baker scored the most momentous goal in Sharks history as Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood strayed from his crease. Bakes’ winner was immortalized by the keen insight of color analyst Pete Stemkowski: “It’s in the net!”


1994 second round: Maple Leafs 4, Sharks 2

The real action in this series was in Game 6, when Sharks forward Johan Garpenlov’s potential overtime series-winner clanged off the crossbar behind Felix Potvin.

In Game 7, the Sharks finally ran out of gas. The Leafs cruised on home ice behind a pair of goals from Wendel Clark and one from Doug Gilmour.

1995 first round: Sharks 5, Flames 4, 2 OT

Another series projected as a mismatch saw the Sharks win squeakers while losing blowouts. In Game 7 in Calgary, original Shark Pat Falloon scored twice, but San Jose gave away a two-goal lead late in the third period.

They hung on for dear life until fellow franchise original Ray Whitney eventually beat Flames goaltender Trevor Kidd over the shoulder in the second overtime -- on assists from Russian icons Larionov and Makarov. To date, it remains the franchise’s only Game 7 Golden Goal.

Journeyman netminder Wade Flaherty, aka Flats, came up huge, making 56 saves to enable the upset.


2000 first round: Sharks 3, Blues 1

Then-Sharks analyst Drew Remenda voiced the view of the hockey world before the playoffs began: “There is no way the Sharks are winning this series.”

Oops!

In another stunning surprise, a San Jose squad that had barely snuck into the eighth spot overcame a President’s Trophy juggernaut led by all-world defensemen Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger. The Sharks shrugged off a 6-2 massacre in Game 6, and took the lead early in Game 7 on a goal from grinder Ronnie Stern.

Then a long-range skipper by Owen Nolan from out near the red line with just 11 seconds remaining in the first broke the Blues’ spirit. Sharks goalie Steve Shields got the better of the Blues' Roman Turek between the pipes, and San Jose had sprung another upset on the road. 


2002 second round: Avalanche 1, Sharks 0

This was the most bitter of Game 7 defeats. It was the best team in franchise history so far, featuring a mix of veteran performance (Teemu Selanne, Owen Nolan, Vincent Damphousse and Gary Suter) and young talent (Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart and Marco Sturm) that also was strong in net (Evgeni Nabokov and Miikka Kiprusoff.)  The 2001-02 Sharks hung their first-ever Pacific Division banner.

But in Game 7 in Denver against the defending Stanley Cup champions, Selanne missed a wide-open cage from point-blank range with a back-hand shot early in the first. Avalanche legend Peter Forsberg scored early in the second, and Patrick Roy did the rest.


2008 first round: Sharks 5, Flames 3

It was a series much like the current one against Vegas — hotly contested and highly physical. Veteran forward Jeremy Roenick, better known for his accomplishments elsewhere, put his stamp on Game 7 with an epic performance, scoring twice and dishing out a pair of helpers.

Joe Thornton scored the opening goal, and the Sharks rallied from a 2-1 deficit at home with four straight scores, as Nabokov outdueled his former understudy Kiprusoff.

For Sharks fans, pain would pounce in the next round, when the season ended with a quadruple-overtime loss to the Dallas Stars in Game 6.


2011 second round: Sharks 3, Red Wings 2

This series ended up way too close for comfort, as the Sharks handed back every bit of a 3-0 lead to a Detroit team led by superstars such as Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. But in Game 7, San Jose got the jump on the Winged Wheel at SAP Center with first-period goals by Devin Setoguchi and Logan Couture.

Patrick Marleau scored the eventual game-winner -- his first point of the series -- in the third as the Sharks withstood furious Detroit pressure behind 38 saves from Antti Niemi.


2013 second round: Kings 2, Sharks 1

San Jose battled toe-to-toe with the defending Stanley Cup champs coached by former Sharks bench boss Darryl Sutter. It was a series in which every game was won by the home team, and the Sharks couldn’t get over the hump in a tight-checking finale at Staples Center.

Game 7 specialist Justin Williams scored both goals for the Kings, and LA goaltender Jonathan Quick sprawled and robbed Joe Pavelski with a spectacular glove save with 5:04 left in the third.

[RELATED: Limiting Sharks' chances is key to a Game 7 victory]

2014 first round: Kings 5, Sharks 1

A series that will live in infamy: the Reverse Sweep.
 
The Sharks took a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 series lead on Marleau’s overtime winner in LA, but they couldn’t finish the job. A trio of three-goal Kings wins eventually led to the clincher in San Jose.

Team Teal took a short-lived 1-0 lead on defenseman Matt Irwin’s goal, but they were then overwhelmed by an LA onslaught and ultimately completed the collapse they had flirted with in 2011. The Kings went on to lift their second Cup, and the Sharks went into a tailspin, missing the playoffs entirely the following season.

2016 second round: Sharks 5, Predators 0

In a series that matched San Jose’s strength and skill against Nashville’s speed, the Sharks left no doubt in a decisive home victory. Pavelski started the scoring on the power play, Couture scored a goal and added two assists, and Jumbo and Patty each contributed a goal and assist.

Sunday’s hero, Martin Jones, delivered a calm 20-save shutout. The most successful playoff run in franchise history ultimately would fall just two victories short of San Jose’s first Stanley Cup.

NHL playoff predictions 2019: Who'll be left standing with Stanley Cup?

NHL playoff predictions 2019: Who'll be left standing with Stanley Cup?

The best postseason tournament in all of professional sports is about to begin.

The NHL regular season is over and done with. The playoffs matchups are set.

And. Here. We. Go.

This year has the potential to be one of the wilder playoffs in recent memory. On one side of the bracket -- the East -- there's a select group of teams in a tier unto themselves. One of those teams -- the Lightning -- just tied the NHL record for most wins in a season, and posted a plus-103 goal differential. No other team finished better than plus-62.

They're your prohibitive favorites, but face arguably the toughest path to the Cup Final of any division winner.

In the Western Conference, well, it's anybody's guess who will make it out alive. Can the upstart Flames finish off an already successful season with a dream finish? Which heavyweight makes it out of the Central? Can the Sharks finally get over the hump?

Here's how I see it all playing out:

First-round predictions

Western Conference

Flames over Avalanche in six
Golden Knights over Sharks in six
Predators over Stars in five
Jets over Blues in seven

Eastern Conference

Lightning over Blue Jackets in four
Bruins over Maple Leafs in six
Capitals over Hurricanes in seven
Penguins over Islanders in six

That's right, I expect seven of the eight semifinalists from a year ago to make it back to that round once again. The only team that fails to do so? San Jose.

The Sharks are playing their worst hockey of the season. They're banged up -- who knows what to expect out of Erik Karlsson, and Timo Meier's recent injury couldn't have come at a worse time. Oh, and they can't make it out of the first few minutes of a game without being scored on.

[RELATED: Sharks feeling confident heading into series vs. Vegas]

The Knights have had San Jose's number since coming into the league. It pains me to say it, but I don't see reason why that will change.

Second-round predictions

Western Conference

Knights over Flames in seven
Predators over Jets in seven

Eastern Conference

Bruins over Lightning in seven
Penguins over Capitals in seven

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and each of these winners, minus the Knights, has had an entire year to chill.

As great as the Lightning have been -- and I mean great -- I'm going out on a limb and predicting the Bruins avenge their second-round elimination at the hands of Tampa Bay last year. I like whichever team emerges from this series to go all the way.

Same goes for the Penguins and Predators -- the vengeance part, that is.

Calgary's somewhat surprising season ends in a dramatic Game 7 loss to a team that has played in far more big games in recent memory.

Conference finals predictions

Western Conference:

Predators over Knights in six

Eastern Conference:

Bruins over Penguins in six

Vegas' luck finally runs out. Marc-Andre Fleury, still not at full strength, fails to provide the kind of staunch goaltending that proved so vital to the Golden Knights' dramatic run a year ago. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, steals a couple games and gets some of the critics off his back. Nashville makes it back to the Cup Final for the first time since losing to the Penguins two years ago.

Pittsburgh won't meet them there, though. Worn down from an extremely physical series with the Capitals, the Penguins don't have the requisite energy to keep up with the Bruins' multi-layered attack. Boston's depth proves to be the deciding factor this late in the postseason grind.

Stanley Cup Final prediction

Bruins over Predators in six

I know, I know. Hasn't the city of Boston won enough lately?

When it rains, it pours.

In a battle of attrition, the Bruins do just enough to become champions. Nashville's defense has their hands full with Boston's top line, and the Bruins' 3rd-ranked power play vastly outperforms that of the Predators, which ranked dead last in the league during the regular season.

David Pastrnak scores the series-winner in Nashville in overtime of Game 6. The Cup eludes P.K. Subban at least one more year.

Evander Kane's return a bright spot for Sharks in loss to Predators

Evander Kane's return a bright spot for Sharks in loss to Predators

SAN JOSE — There was high energy inside SAP Center on Saturday night when the Sharks took on the Predators in a hard-fought, playoff-like game.

But the crowd was at its loudest and most engaged when Evander Kane was the first skater mentioned during starting lineup introductions.

“It was a nice gesture from them,” the Sharks winger said after the game. “Definitely really appreciate it. Got me going for that first shift there. It was a nice gesture, and I appreciate it. We have a great group of fans here.”

Saturday marked Kane’s first game since Feb. 26, as he missed time because of injury and a family tragedy. But there was no denying that, despite San Jose falling to Nashville 4-2 in its regular-season series finale, having Kane back on the ice was a bright spot.

“He did a good job, considering what he’s been through,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “The fact he even got out here today I think was very impressive.”

Kane admitted he felt a bit rusty when he took the ice to start the game, but he was able to pick it up as the contest went on.

“First 10 minutes were – just getting my legs back, getting my wind back,” Kane said. “Then I felt fine, took a regular shift. Felt good in that regard.”

DeBoer agreed.

“The fact that he played 20 minutes and played hard and did what he did," DeBoer said. "He gave us everything he had.”

Kane was reunited on a line with Tomas Hertl, and after getting back into a groove, the duo returned to being one of the most dominant lines on the ice – even though they didn’t get on the scoresheet.

“I thought we created some opportunities but weren’t able to find the back of the net,” Kane said.

That line will have plenty of opportunities to find the back of the net in the near future, though. San Jose concludes its current three-game homestand with a showdown against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night. That game is sure to be hard-hitting, and the Sharks have a better chance of winning now that they have Kane back in the lineup.