And then there were four.
The San Jose Sharks will be representing the Pacific Division in the Western Conference Final, facing off against the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 on Saturday.
But to wrap up their round two series against the Colorado Avalanche tonight, the Sharks dominated the first two periods of play, taking an early lead courtesy of returning Captain Joe Pavelski. The Sharks found opportunities and jumped on them, especially after Nathan MacKinnon lost and edge and fell into the boards, missing much of the first period.
At the end of two, the Sharks held a 3-1 lead that could’ve been a lot tighter if not for an offside challenge that actually fell in Pete DeBoer’s favor. An additional Avalanche goal early in the third kept things as anxiety-inducing as ever and the Avalanche made a huge push that forced the Sharks into 20 minutes of defense.
They held on for the incredible 3-2 win.
Onto the next.
Hello folks, it’s your fearless leader here for Game 7. Little programming note: Cap is back. I sincerely hope he’s healthy and not playoffs-healthy. Also Micheal Haley is scratched.
Let’s do the dang thing.
19:02: Colorado is coming out strong in the neutral zone.
18:38: Erik Karlsson hooks Kerfoot. Woof. Not the time to be taking penalties.
18:09: Nathan MacKinnon goes into the boards hard . Doesn’t look like a Sharks player is responsible, just one of those unfortunate injuries, but he was holding his shoulder and in a lot of pain. That’s a huge blow to the Avalanche.
17:42: MacKinnon is off to the dressing room.
16:38: Sharks kill the hooking penalty.
16:20: Derick Brassard hooks Joe Thornton and now it’s the Sharks’ turn on the man-advantage. Joe Pavelski back on the top unit.
15:07: Jesus, the Avalanche’s penalty kill is ... physical.
14:03: PAVELSKI WITH A TIP OFF BRENT BURNS, ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? 1-0, SHARKS
12:43: God, it’s nice to watch Donskoi. He just had some nifty moves to keep the puck in the zone.
10:50: Broadcast just reminded me that the Avs only dressed 11 forwards. The MacKinnon injury could be pivotal.
8:25: HELL YEAH, TOMAS HERTL! 2-0, Sharks.
8:01: Ian Cole is called for interference on Pavelski and the Sharks get a power play.
7:14: Chaos in front of the net, including a chance for Pavelski, but nothing goes in.
6:01: Avalanche kill off the penalty.
5:37: Nathan MacKinnon back on the bench. Hilariously timed with a loud cheer as a video of Pavelski in Game 5 is shown on the jumbotron.
3:53: Martin Jones with a stop on MacKinnon, who clearly isn’t slowed down.
3:16: MacKinnon being gone for half the period really exposes the Avs as a one line team, huh?
2:20: Marcus Sorensen with a shot right into Grubauer’s chest.
:43.7: After extended time in the defensive zone, the Sharks get the puck out and fire off a couple of shots.
:06.8: Mikko Rantanen through traffic cuts the lead in half. 2-1, Sharks.
END FIRST: Sharks 2, Avalanche 1
I didn’t particularly like the pressure the Avalanche put on at the end of the period. We’ll have to see if MacKinnon makes it through the game in terms of how his shoulder might be affecting his range of mobility. Not mad about how good the Sharks looked on the power play and how they were able to capitalize on their opportunities.
20:00: Let’s gooooooooo
18:01: Brenden Dillon with a shot, after the Sharks have an extended stay in the offensive zone. Grubauer came up huge.
17:52: Carl Soderberg hits Thornton with a high stick, Sharks are going on a power play.
16:40: Gabriel Landeskog with a short-handed chance.
15:52: Power play over.
15:32: Only now is the puck out of the offensive zone. The Sharks are dominating.
14:50: Gus Nyquist hits Rantanen with an accidental high stick, but no call on the play.
14:16: Donskoi elevates the fourth line to an entirely different level. Really great play from Melker Karlsson that results in a shot on goal.
12:11: Colin Wilson and it’s tied 2-2. The Avalanche used a lot of speed in the neutral zone to set up that chance.
DeBoer is challenging for offside, which was honestly my first thought. Looks like Landeskog was still on the ice going for a change.
AND NO GOAL! Sharks are still on top, 2-1.
11:32: Karlsson again, this time for slashing. Bad time for the Sharks to take a penalty.
7:57: The Tank is SO LOUD and the Sharks are giving them every reason to be.
7:23: GOAL FOR DONSKOI! 3-1, Sharks!
5:44: Sorry folks, I’m really still buzzing from that Donskoi goal.
4:18: Line changes make me so nervous. This Avalanche team is so fast.
3:52: Pavelski and Karlsson with a two-on-one.
2:02: A faceoff in the defensive zone, Sharks did good work getting the puck out. They cannot sit back on their heels.
1:30: Karlsson just knocked Matt Nieto flat using his ass.
:38.4: The Sharks are just ... clicking tonight. There’s no other word for it. They know where every other man in teal is on the ice.
END SECOND: Sharks 3, Avalanche 1
Just 20 more minutes. Do some deep breathing, everybody.
19:09: Tyson Jost gets a rebound up close. Oof. 3-2, Sharks.
18:00: Good defensive effort from the Sharks, but they’re having trouble setting up offensively.
16:28: Really not kidding about the Avalanche’s speed killing the Sharks.
15:29: Avalanche have put everything into these first five minutes. They’ve got six shots already.
15:04: Logan Couture called for tripping Rantanen. Huge kill for the Sharks here.
13:04: Penalty killed. I have unclenched my jaw, which I recommend we, as a community, all should do.
9:39: The Sharks are playing wholly defensively and while they’re holding up, this makes me nervous and I hate it. The Avalanche are in control of this game suddenly.
8:24: It’s been so long since the last whistle.
5:36: I’m sorry, I truly cannot even breathe at this point. A one-goal lead is so scary??? Avs are leading shot attempts 15-2 this period. That’s insane.
2:15: Martin Jones, sweetie, I have never said a bad thing about you in my whole entire life.
2:10: Avalanche pulled Grubauer. Oh god, here we go.
1:00: OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD
:41.4: THIS IS THE LONGEST MINUTE OF MY LIFE
:14.4: oh god oh god
0:0: CONFERENCE FINAL HELL YEAH!!!!
FINAL SCORE: Sharks 3, Avalanche 2
It’s back to do-or-die mode.
Tonight, the final second round series will come to an end. It’s a different feeling than the last time the San Jose Sharks stared into the face of elimination. Before Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights, elimination felt almost certain. The Knights had put up a hard fight for the entire series and the Sharks looked broken, especially in the mouths of a couple of key players. The win they earned was as improbable as it was incredible.
This feels different. Looking rejuvenated, the Sharks have been good this series — at times great, even. Undoubtedly the better team overall.
But they also haven’t been without their share of mistakes, or else we wouldn’t be here, one bad bounce away from elimination.
Those moments of brilliance need to come together completely tonight. If Game 6 taught us anything, it’s that it’s not enough to just be the better team. The Sharks need to be full on dominant — and maybe have a little luck on their side, too.
Go get ‘em, boys.
Expected scratches: Dylan Gambrell, Tim Heed, Radim Simek, Antti Suomela, Lukas Radil
Injured reserve: Joe Pavelski*(undisclosed)
*game time decision
Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Alexander Kerfoot
Colin Wilson — Carl Soderberg — Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost — J.T. Compher — Matt Nieto
Gabriel Bourque — Derick Brassard
Ian Cole — Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov — Tyson Barrie
Samuel Girard — Cale Makar
Expected scratches: Matt Calvert, Sven Andrighetto, Ryan Graves, Mark Barberio, Vladislav Kamenev
Where to watch
Puck drop is at 6 p.m. Pacific/9 p.m. Eastern at SAP Center and will be broadcast nationally NBC Sports in the U.S., CBC and SportsNet in Canada and en français on TVA Sports. The radio call will be on 98.5 KFOX in San Jose and through the Sharks app.