The San Jose Sharks’ 6-5 win in the overtime shootout on the road against the Los Angeles Kings last night wasn’t pretty — until the very end, really.
But the bottom line is that the Sharks are going to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and maybe that’s all that matters.
Their seeding is yet to be determined — San Jose (94 points) hosts Los Angeles (94 points) on Saturday night in the season finale for both teams, and the Phoenix Coyotes (93 points) still have two games to play in St. Louis and Minnesota — and the Sharks still have a shot to win their fifth straight Pacific Division if the chips fall right.
But their third win in a row — in playoff atmospheres — has demonstrated San Jose belongs in the postseason, and the Sharks are probably a team few look forward to seeing in the playoffs.
San Jose has been a Western Conference finalist the past two seasons, but they underachieved this year, for sure, in the regular season. But now that they’re in? The rest of the National Hockey Leaguer better watch out.
Joe Pavelski notched the only goal in the shootout to clinch the Sharks’ win, and even though the defense and Antti Niemi were shaky at times — they gave up the game-tying goal with only 3:31 left in the third period, costing them the outright division lead as it turned out — the San Jose squad showed serious pluck coming back from a 3-1 deficit with just under a minute to play in the second period.
Joe Thornton’s power-play score with just 28 seconds left in the middle frame got the Sharks back to a one-goal game heading into the locker room, and San Jose grabbed their first lead of the game with 7:23 left to play on Martin Havlat’s seventh goal of the year.
In a game that featured 63 penalty minutes and a lot of trickery (see below, Ryane Clowe!), the Sharks really earned this playoff spot by beating a tough Kings squad on their home ice.
Of course, everyone knows how hard it is to beat L.A. and their outstanding goaltender, Jonathan Quick — whether in regulation or overtime or the shootout. Time and time again, San Jose fought back in this game — figuratively and literally — to get the win and the two points.
Some highlights to remember if the Sharks end up going long in the playoffs?
- In this game, Thornton pulled off the Gordie Howe Hat Trick with a goal, an assist and a five-minute major penalty for fighting. That’s right: Joe Thornton;
- Clowe’s sneaky effort from the San Jose bench might have saved the Sharks’ season. Perhaps the most random sporting bench incident since the 1954 Cotton Bowl, it’s certainly going to fuel some more fighting on Saturday night between these two teams.