“Never give up,” said Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi in his post-game interview with Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Brodie Brazil.
The San Jose forward had just come off the ice after scoring 3:09 into overtime to give his team a 6-5 victory–a game in which they were down 4-0 early in the second period.
In what should have ended up as a second straight win for the Los Angeles Kings, the Sharks pulled out the most unfathomable of unfathomable victories. After the Kings took 3-0 lead into the first intermission, most of us watching and probably plenty of those playing in the game thought the outcome had been decided.
When Kings forward Brad Richardson made the score 4-0 just 44 seconds into the middle stanza, a handful more probably thought the outcome was destined to end up in a Kings triumph. However, from that point on, the Sharks scored five second period goals to just one more for the Kings.
When the buzzer sounded to mark the end of 40 minutes of play, the two sides were back at square one: a tie game. Goals by Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe again, and Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks their most potent playoff period in franchise history.
And then a scoreless third period set up Setoguchi’s heroics and a 2-1 series lead for the Sharks.
With 11 goals in total, in would be only a bit of an overkill to go over each one in detail in this thrilling come-from-behind road victory for San Jose. That said, one goal in particular should stand out more than the others in this historic comeback. Shortly after Patrick Marleau got the Sharks on the scoreboard, Kings forward Dustin Penner received a two-minute minor for roughing.
Ryane Clowe’s ensuing power-play goal cut the lead to 4-2 and from that moment on the Sharks appeared to be a changed team. Perhaps it was a giant weight that collectively came off the shoulder’s of the Sharks’ top scorers. Clowe’s marker ended the squad’s 0-for-8 skid on the man advantage.
Despite owning the second-best power-play in the regular season, the Shark’s hadn’t yet converted on the man-advantage in the eight-plus periods of playoff hockey before Clowe found the net in the second period Tuesday night. More importantly, this lone power-play goal of the game for either side enabled the Sharks to come away with their first non-loss in the special teams battle thus far in the series.
Going up against a low-scoring, defensively sound team like Los Angeles, the Sharks were treading serious water making it a trend of losing the special teams battle in this series. And while converting on the power-play proved huge, the penalty kill came up even bigger. Not only did the Sharks kill off a Kings power-play minutes after Clowe’s power-play tally but what shouldn’t go unnoticed is the four-minute penalty kill in the first period.
Only a couple of minutes after the Kings had scored two quick goals a mere 11 seconds to open the game, Sharks defenseman Niclas Wallin received a double minor for high-sticking. Granted the Kings ended up scoring twice more before the Sharks would light the lamp, but by killing off all four minutes of the Wallin minor, Team Teal was able to regain their confidence down a skater.
The Sharks finished the regular season 23rd on the penalty kill, and had been beaten for three power-play goals in the first two games of the series. Special teams are always critical, but in this series, even more-so.
“They scored a power-play goal,” Kings Head coach Terry Murray pointed out in his post-game remarks.
Again, the power-play tally wasn’t a game tying marker nor a game winner, but it was critical nonetheless.
The Sharks got one, and the Kings didn’t, and the Sharks won the game. Do games always end up this way? No, of course not but more often than not if a team wins the special teams battle, they’ll come away with the victory, especially in the postseason.
Not lost in the shuffle of this miracle comeback was the play of Sharks backup netminder Antero Niittymaki who came into the game after Richardson’s goal made it 4-0. Niittymaki, whose no stranger to playing well in big games (MVP of the Turin Olympics in 2006), only faced 12 shots but allowed just one goal and made a handful of above average saves to keep the deficit within reach and then to keep the game tied.