SAN JOSE – It wouldn’t be a Stanley Cup playoffs Game 7 for Sharks without a ton of drama, and boy, did they make things as interesting as possible in Wednesday night's second-round series-deciding tilt with the Colorado Avalanche.
After a night featuring a triumphant return, a waved-off goal and Colorado goals a little too close for San Jose's comfort, the Sharks punched their ticket to the Western Conference final with a 3-2 win over the Avalanche.
Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' win.
Their confidence never wavered: Before the game, Evander Kane said the Sharks entered Game 7 with plenty of belief.
“We've been a confident group all year," Kane said Wednesday afternoon. "We've been confident in this building and I think we're just looking forward to getting started tonight."
He wasn’t kidding. Even when the Avalanche pushed to tie the game – especially after Tyson Jost cut the Colorado deficit down to 3-2 early in the third period – the Sharks never got back on their heels.
San Jose’s penalty kill played a massive role. The Sharks didn't allow a power-play goal for the third straight game, and allowed just two in the entire series. Colorado was at its most desperate and aggressive on three power-play opportunities Wednesday, and San Jose shut the door each time.
Did you hear that the captain returned? In case you weren’t hanging on the edge of your seat awaiting the news: Yes, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski played his first game since sustaining a scary head injury in the third period of Game 7 in the first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights.
But Pavelski didn’t just take the ice for Team Teal: He scored the game’s opening goal, assisted on San Jose’s second and drew a penalty.
Pavelski also brought the best out of his new linemates. Kane had his most dominant performance of the second round, while center Tomas Hertl finished the night with 11 faceoff wins and a first-period goal to go along with a strong defensive performance.
San Jose's depth wins the day: One of coach Peter DeBoer’s chief complaints after Game 6 was that the Sharks didn’t have “enough participants” in an overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Game 7 goals from Pavelski and Hertl were huge, but San Jose still needed its depth players to show up and make an impact. The fourth line did just that in the second period when Joonas Donskoi -- who dropped to the fourth line after Pavelski returned -- scored the eventual game-winner.
Of course, the bulk of the credit has to go to Donskoi, who scored his first goal since January. His wrap-around was reminiscent of the overtime-winner he scored against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final – and it really couldn’t have come at a better time for San Jose, who needed some extra cushion after an offside review took the Avalanche's apparent game-tying goal off the scoreboard.