Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s summer series where we look at the biggest game in team history. Each day we will be back with a new team to review. Looking at things like the lead-up, what happened, followed, and why it makes it the biggest game. The biggest game does not automatically mean a win, either. Sometimes, it can be a loss that set the franchise back massively. Sit back and enjoy as we break down all 31 teams’ most important game. The full series is found here. In this article, Last Word On Hockey writer Josh Erickson looks at the San Jose Sharks biggest game.
San Jose Sharks Biggest Game
Oftentimes, a team’s biggest game is looked back on as a significant checkpoint in history. Whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime goal, a ridiculous team effort, or a call heard ’round the world, there’s an undeniably special feeling that surrounds a game worthy enough of this title. It’s an identity-setter, and it has a way of burning into every fan’s memory. You remember where you were when you watched it all go down.
So for the Sharks’ undeniably special game, we don’t have to rewind that far. Coming off of a bitter six-game loss in the 2018 Western Conference Second Round to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Sharks rematched against their newfound foe in the First Round of 2019. When the series started on April 10, 2019, neither team had any idea of the history that was about to unfold.
Fast-forward to Game Four of the series. April 16, 2019, at T-Mobile Arena. Vegas, while technically the lower seed, has come out ahead through three games with a 2-1 series lead. The San Jose defense and goaltending had not been strong, allowing two, five, and six goals respectively in Games One through Three. San Jose looked to turn it around and even the series in Game Four.
But Max Pacioretty scored early for the Knights.
And they just kept going. 5-0 was the final, San Jose goalie Martin Jones was yanked during the first intermission after allowing two goals on only seven shots, and Vegas had a commanding 3-1 series lead. It was last year all over again.
The Sharks, even without winning a Stanley Cup, have plenty of playoff experience. They’ve been one of the more consistently solid teams in the league since the turn of the century. They’ve been here before, and they knew what they were doing.
Game Five, at home. Jones shuts the door, and San Jose walks away with a 5-2 win, putting momentum back in their favor. But they still had to go win another game at The Fortress in marvelous Las Vegas, which is no easy feat. They kept it close though, and were able to send the game to overtime. Both goaltenders were very strong as the shots kept piling up. It was a low-scoring game in a series that hadn’t had many, if at all.
So in the second overtime, when Sharks forward Barclay Goodrow (more on him later) took a slashing penalty, it looked like the Knights were going to take advantage and finish off the series. In six games. Just like last year.
30 seconds later, Tomas Hertl shoots and scores on a desperation shorthanded shot for the Sharks. The series is tied when everybody thought it was over, and Marc-Andre Fleury lets in a shot he normally would have had. An ominous sense of weird was starting to creep over the series, and it would rear its ugly head, depending on the way you look at it, in Game Seven.
San Jose Sharks Biggest Game
While the deciding Game Seven took place at the aptly dubbed “Shark Tank,” it was the Knights who made themselves heard early on. Heading into the third period, they were up 2-0 on goals from William Karlsson and Cody Eakin. San Jose had failed to convert on four power-play opportunities compared to Vegas’ one. Vegas looked like the team in control, and it was going to take something special for the Sharks to push back into the game.
Early on in the third period, it was more of the same. Pacioretty scored a mere 03:36 into the period for the Knights, and they were up 3-0. Game over. Or so everyone thought. This wouldn’t be the San Jose Sharks biggest game if the game was actually over.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a controversial call leads to a break for the other team.
Off a faceoff, Eakin lays a seemingly harmless cross-check on Sharks center Joe Pavelski. Pavelski takes an awkward trip over the Knights’ Paul Stastny and falls. Hard. Pavelski is bleeding from the head and is taken out of the game. Eakin is handed a 5-minute major and a game misconduct.
So the Sharks, who just witnessed an incredibly scary injury to their captain, are handed 5 guaranteed minutes of a man-advantage. And with an arsenal such as Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, and Logan Couture, most expected for the Sharks to at least draw within two goals. What actually happened, nobody expected.
Couture. He points to his team and says: “that’s one.”
Then Hertl. Couture again. Kevin Labanc.
In the span of four minutes and eight seconds, the Sharks, down and out, had a 4-3 lead in the game. Teammates rushed to the bench to celebrate after every goal, and the Tank, once quiet, was raucous again.
Vegas, however, being the resilient team that they are, weren’t done yet. With 47 seconds left in regulation and the goalie pulled, Marchessault tied the game, sending a bullet through the hearts of Sharks fans and energizing Golden Knights supporters everywhere. To overtime they went.
Back and Forth in OT
If you were watching this game, you could argue that this period was more monumental than the third.
There was a slew of grade-A chances at either end of the ice. Some were denied by puck luck. Some were the work of goalies Martin Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury. But with how the game was cracked wide open in the third, everyone felt that the game had to end soon.
So of course, just when everything seemed to have calmed down, there was something. Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson streaks into the zone, already with a point in the game. Barclay Goodrow, who finished with a combined 07:26 of ice time in the game, was the receiver of a Karlsson dish. He proceeded to create magic.
Streaking down the right-wing, he cut towards the middle at the hash-marks and drove across the crease in front of Fleury. Hockey’s unlikely hero struck again.
The Sharks, after being down 3-0 in the third period, after being down 3-1 in the series, were moving onto the second round.
For a moment, time seemed to just stop. Even still, it’s hard for most to comprehend the degree of awesomeness that the Sharks achieved that night, all for their former captain.
While they ended up losing to the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final, the Sharks showed one of the most moving displays of teamwork, camaraderie, and identity in recent memory. The Sharks have maybe had moments that have led to more success. But there is no Sharks fan who is ever going to forget this moment in their team’s history, making it the most memorable and biggest game in Sharks history.
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