As loud as the Shark Tank got following Tomas Hertl’s two goals, the roar was even more deafening when injured captain Joe Pavelski emerged from the tunnel to wave a towel for the fans in the third period.
Hertl’s goals led the San Jose Sharks to a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 5 on Saturday night, leaving them one win away from a berth in the conference final and a greater possibility that their fallen leader will be able to return to the ice.
"That was as loud as this building gets," forward Logan Couture said of the ovation for Pavelski about a minute after Hertl’s tiebreaking goal in the third period. "That was a pretty cool moment. I had goose bumps on the ice."
Pavelski made his first public appearance since his head slammed against the ice and he was helped off with a bloody concussion in Game 7 of the first round against Vegas. The Sharks rallied around their captain by scoring four goals on the ensuing power play to erase a three-goal deficit and eventually advancing with an overtime win.
Pavelski got back on the ice skating earlier this week and coach Peter DeBoer said he’s getting "closer" to making a return to the lineup that would likely lead to even louder cheers than he got during this game.
"I didn’t know it was going to happen but a give-you-a-chill type moment. That type of ovation," DeBoer said. "Our coaching staff would give him the same kind of ovation when we find out he’s back."
But in order to increase those chances, the Sharks will need more games like this where they controlled the play for almost the entire game and rode the strong play from Hertl, Couture, defensemen Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and goalie Martin Jones to a win.
Hertl tied the game with a power-play goal in the final minute of the second period and then delivered the go-ahead score with 13:34 remaining in the third for his first two goals of the series after recording six in the first round.
"If you have tough game you have to just let it go," Hertl said. "I know I can play really good. ... I know the team needs me and I have to step it up. I try to every night."
The Sharks will look to clinch the series in Game 6 on Monday night in Colorado.
Tyson Jost scored the lone goal for the Avalanche, who were on their heels for most of the night. Philipp Grubauer made 37 saves.
Hertl was the beneficiary of sustained offensive pressure for his tiebreaking goal early in the third. Joonas Donskoi made a deft stickhandling move to get the puck to Vlasic, who put a shot on net. Hertl was parked in front and was able to knock in the rebound.
Jones made it stand up, stopping Tyson Barrie twice at point-blank range as part of a 21-save night. San Jose held Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon to one shot on goal and ended his points streak at eight games.
"After they got that lead, we just couldn’t find a way to get enough pressure toward the net," captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "We had some looks, but it wasn’t enough desperation in our O-zone playing I don’t think."
The Sharks came out with far more energy than they had in the Game 4 loss in Colorado, putting eight of the first nine shots on net and appearing to take a 1-0 lead on Kevin Labanc’s shot from the slot. But trailing referee Tim Peel was signaling for a high stick on Timo Meier before the puck went in the net, negating the goal.
Both goalies then came up with big saves late in a physical period that featured plenty of hits and a few scrums. Jones robbed Matt Nieto on one end and Grubauer made two tough stops on the power play against Hertl.
"I’m not going to overanalyze this. I thought we got outworked," coach Jared Bednar said. "I felt that they were more competitive than us."
The Sharks didn’t let up in the second and were outshooting the Avalanche 27-13 just after killing back-to-back penalties only to give up the first goal of the game on an unfortunate bounce. Jones stopped J.T. Compher off the rush and Brent Burns tried to clear the rebound from in front but knocked it off Jost and into the net for a goal instead.
That sapped some energy out of the crowd that was brought back a couple of minutes later when Hertl deflected Couture’s shot from the top circle for a power-play goal with 19.4 seconds left. That ended a scoring drought of 100:10 for San Jose in the series.
NOTES: The Sharks lost all 20 games in the regular season when scoring two or fewer goals but have won twice in the playoffs, including a 2-1 double OT win in Game 6 last round. ... Donskoi returned to San Jose’s lineup after missing the past five games with an undisclosed injury. Lukas Radil was scratched. ... Avalanche F Matt Calvert (upper body) was scratched for the second time in three games. Sven Andrighetto returned to the lineup.