As the first period ended, sitting in a raucous and confident Staples Center crowd, us three Sharks fans took a verbal beating from Kings fans as they walked by us. The normal go-to anti-Sharks verbiage could be heard, and we could do nothing but smile and take it. I remember distinctly hearing one fan say "I would go home if I were you guys!" There were two more periods left, 40 more minutes (at least)... going home was never an option or thought for the Sharks fans in attendance at Staples last night. Deep down inside, we knew we couldn't leave our team on the ice out there, and we knew we wouldn't leave fellow Sharks fans at Staples to take the beating from Kings fans- we would never quit on the team or on this game.
The teams came out for the second period, and every Sharks fan who we had saw in the sections next to us were in their seats before the puck dropped for the start of the second. Maybe the home team fans were still giving high-fives in the concourse, or sipping down one last victory beer, but a significant portion of the seats that were originally occupied by purple and black were empty to start the second- I don't blame them, they were dominating us. The Sharks fans were there though, ready to take a beating and support their team or start something special- we had no idea which one it was going to be, but we would be there nonetheless. As the officials prepared to drop the puck on the next 20 minutes, and the Sharks circled the center ice face off circle, I noticed one of the Sharks take his time to circle every one of his teammates. It was Dany Heatley, and he went to every Shark on the ice and gave them a stick tap on the shin, followed by a simple nod. He did this for each player, and each player acknowledged it in their own way. From that moment, I started to believe. I didn't know at the time what I was believing in, I had no way of fully understanding what would happen, but I knew then that the Sharks wouldn't give up and neither would we Sharks fans. The Kings would go on to score the next goal, but it didn't even seem to matter to us. It was just another goal, another tally, but at this point the comeback already had to be monumental so it didn't even make us flinch. And then the Sharks started scoring. They played loose, they played fast, they played like they didn't care what the score was- they played to win, and Pavelski broke the internet.
The 3rd period and OT was the most tense hockey watching I have ever been a part of. As OT started, it got only more tense and you could feel the air in the building being sucked dry by every person in attendance. And then Marleau brings the puck up ice and you KNOW that this is going to be a scoring chance. He comes streaking down the wing in overtime, and you can see the Kings defense start to collapse a little as Joe heads toward the net. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Setoguchi is trailing on that off wing coming full speed down the boards. I keep my eyes on Marleau, but I can feel Seto and see his white jersey coming on the rush. I don't look at Seto too much because I'm thinking to myself "I don't want the Kings players or fans to notice him too. Maybe they will see my eyes and catch Seto coming down!"... Marleau gets the pass through the defense, Setoguchi gets the puck on his stick... things slow down and are in slow motion as he takes his shot... there is always a weird moment on away ice where you can't tell from the crowd's reaction if the opposing team just scored or their goalie made a great save, the first second of crowd reaction in these situations is the same... and then the hands go up, hands in white jerseys... GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was only one game, only one win in a series, but it was the best hockey game I have ever been to.