In the aftermath of the Sharks' improbable -- if controversial -- Stanley Cup playoff comeback against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of the first round, San Jose coach Peter DeBoer credited veteran center Joe Thornton for speaking up in the immediate aftermath of then-captain Joe Pavelski's head injury.
Earlier this week, San Jose's bench boss revealed that the 40-year-old did so at the expense of his own playing time. DeBoer told The Athletic's Craig Custance at a presentation during the Hockey Coaches Conference in Toronto this week that, when the Sharks scored their third goal on the contentious five-minute major penalty back on April 23, Thornton said DeBoer shouldn't put the veteran's power-play unit on the ice.
DeBoer added that when SJ tied it 3-3, Joe Thornton - on the second unit, so he hadn't seen much PP time during this span - told him to "keep the number one unit out there." DeBoer said he still gets emotional thinking about Thornton's leadership in the moment— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 18, 2019
Kevin Labanc scored the Sharks' fourth goal -- and his fourth point -- of the power play 28 seconds after Couture tied the game 3-3. San Jose scored two goals within 1:04 of the major penalty being called, with forwards Couture, Labanc, Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl joined on the ice by defenseman Erik Karlsson. Thornton, Evander Kane, Gustav Nyquist and Marcus Sorensen took the ice with defenseman Brent Burns after the first two goals, but the Golden Knights held the second unit to two shots on goal and no goals for nearly two minutes of power-play time.
Couture tied Game 7 with about 1:20 remaining on the power play, scoring the top power-play unit's third goal on their fifth shot attempt. On their sixth, Labanc gave the Sharks the lead.
They still needed overtime to advance to the second round, but riding their hot hands resulted in an historic power play for the Sharks. According to DeBoer, he can thank Thornton for that.