Rollercoaster of emotions
Last week, hockey fans were treated to not one, not two, but three Game Sevens. Man, talk about an opportunity ripe with chances to run the full gamut of emotions over the course of 30 or so hours.
On Tuesday evening, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs got things going with a bang, almost literally. A 0-0 game quickly became a 2-0 lead for the hometown Bruins as they shocked their own fans with a pair of goals that, looking back at it, Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen probably wants back.
Longtime Bruins star Patrice Bergeron capped the scoring with an empty-netter of his own in the final seconds of a 5-1 win.
After such an “easy-appearing” victory for the Bruins, I was ready and fired up for the Sharks to do the same to the Vegas Golden Knights. Since the opening faceoff was set for 10 p.m., I was already in the office working on Wednesday’s paper when the game started.
My favorite NHL team had a very strong start to the game. To add to the excitement, the Sharks’ fans had also brought their “A” game as they were making plenty of noise, and were making it hard for me to hear the announcers who were covering the game for NBCSN.
Just over halfway through the first period, the nearly unthinkable happened, Vegas, who had no shots on goal through the first 10 minutes, scored the game’s first goal when William Karlsson knocked a rebound past Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.
Jones, who had been much maligned in the series to that point, surrendered that goal, and a shiver dropped down my spine along with the nagging feeling of “here we go again.” Jones made some good saves after that point, and the Sharks went into the first intermission down 1-0.
The second period was much the same, with the Sharks attacking where they could, but Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was equal to the task. Vegas finally got some sustained pressure about halfway through the period, and then things went south for the Sharks again.
With a strong forecheck working its magic in the offensive zone, the Golden Knights moved the puck out to the left point to Shea Theodore. Theodore moved the puck to the middle of the rink where Brayden McNabb was. McNabb quickly moved the puck back to Theodore, who fired a wrister through traffic, attempting to hit the top corner over Jones’ stick side. Jones probably would have it, if not for a high tip by Cody Eakin.
Suddenly, the Sharks were down, 2-0.
I had finished up my section and sent it off for printing in time for the start of the third period. I hopped in my RAV4 and headed home, hoping to see as much of the third period as I could. I had worn one of my Sharks jerseys to work and as Max Pacioretty put Vegas up 3-0 just 3:36 into the third, the words my son had said to me when I first threw my No. 12 Patrick Marleau jersey, from the Stadium Series game a few years back, on.
“You know they are going to lose this game now, just because you put that on,” he said.
“This won’t be the reason they lose this game,” I responded before heading into work.
Of course, I did have a moment where I thought he might be right, but I quickly pushed that out of my mind. However, after that third goal, I made sure that sucker came off and was hung up in my closet before I resigned myself to what I was sure was going to be the final 15 minutes of the Sharks’ season.
Just under six minutes later, everything changed. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski settled into a faceoff with Eakin in the offensive zone. Pavelski won the draw. However, in the time it took for the puck to get back to the right point to Brent Burns, Pavelski was dropped to the ice headfirst with Golden Knights’ center Paul Stastny standing over him. As Burns moved quickly to his left, it became apparent that Pavelski was not going to get up. In fact, he was barely moving at all.
Upon multiple viewings of the replay, at various speeds, it became apparent what had happened. Pavelski stood up after winning the draw, only to get immediately cross checked by Eakin. Falling backwards awkwardly, Pavelski was then hit by Stastny, flipped over, and hit his head first.
After discussion by the referees, the Sharks were awarded a five-minute major. On the ensuing advantage, the Sharks turned their season around with four goals in a matter of 4:01. Assistant captain Logan Couture scored twice. Winger Kevin Labanc scored a goal and three assists.
I did not sit down after center Tomas Hertl’s goal (the second one) until after end of regulation.
The Sharks did surrender a goal with less than a minute left, which drove me nuts, but I was in for the duration now.
My brother (a Bruins fan) was texting me throughout the power play and the final five minutes of regulation. I responded where I could, but I was also trying to focus on the game.
The Sharks looked good in overtime and, surprisingly, I never felt like the game was over whenever Vegas got the puck.
When forward Barclay Goodrow took a lead pass from defenseman Erik Karlsson and crashed the net hard, I thought we might see a goal. When he made a quick move and reached around Fleury, I was in disbelief. After all, it’s not as though Goodrow had ever shown that level of skill before. When Goodrow pushed the puck into the net, I jumped up and screamed like a crazed fan at the Shark Tank.
I could hardly believe my eyes. It took a long time to come back down from that high.
On Wednesday, the Carolina Hurricanes did nearly the same thing to the Washington Capitals. When that game started, I was at home, finishing up some editing. By the time Jordan Staal evened the game early in the third period, I was on my way into the office.
I monitored the overtimes as I built Thursday’s sport section only to see Brock McGinn tip home pass from Justin Williams, sending the Capitals home early and closing out the first round of the NHL Playoffs in the most dramatic way possible.