The Sharks were not facing elimination in Game 2 against the Vegas Golden Knights Saturday night, but they might as well have been.
A loss would have created a near-insurmountable 2-0 hole. In NHL history, home teams taking a 2-0 lead have closed out the series 89.5 percent of the time, according to Hockey Reference, and the Sharks are 0-11 in series where they've lost the first two games.
Logan Couture's double-overtime winner ensured they'd avoid the dreaded deficit, handed the Golden Knights their first postseason loss, and taught Vegas' wide-eyed fanbase a lesson in playoff heartbreak. For the first 20 minutes and change, it looked like none of that would happen, as San Jose gave up the first two goals for the second straight game.
But the Sharks whittled away at the lead, took it themselves, gave it back, and eventually took it back thanks in part to head coach Peter DeBoer's patience.
Brent Burns was not at his best in Game 1, nor did he start strong in Game 2. The defending Norris Trophy winner made a costly turnover in his own zone in the lead-up to Golden Knights winger William Karlsson's first goal on Saturday, and San Jose was outscored, outshot, and out-possessed with the defenseman on the ice in Game 1.
But Burns cut the Vegas lead in half with a power-play goal in the first period, and gave his team their first lead of the series with a wraparound effort in the second. As he has all season, DeBoer took the good with the bad from Burns and continued to trust him. Burns' 36:48 in time on ice (TOI) on Saturday only trailed Marc-Edouard Vlasic (37:26).
Kevin Labanc also struggled in Game 1 and parts of Game 2. Labanc's ice time dipped a bit in the first two overtime periods on Saturday, when DeBoer basically shortened the bench to three lines and rotated Labanc and Mikkel Boedker on Couture's wing.
Yet, DeBoer kept Labanc on the top power play unit both times San Jose had a man advantage in the second overtime. The second-year forward, one of the league's best power play passers this season, assisted on the game-winner with a slip pass across the slot.
Burns and Labanc rewarded DeBoer's patience, ensuring a series split before the teams renew pleasantries at SAP Center on Monday. The second round is far from over, and much farther than if the Sharks had returned home in a two-game hole.