San Jose, California, USA.
April 27, 2008.
The crowd at San Jose's HP Pavilion was loud, and regularly erupted in adrenaline-inducing chants of "Let's go Sharks!". The Sharks responded well at first, skating with a sense of urgency and checking the Dallas Stars with the ferociousness of a biker gang who'd just had their Harley's keyed.
In the second period, San Jose's Milan Michalek went on a breakaway that sent the fans (and Dallas goalie Marty Turco) springing. Using some deft stick-handling work, Michalek faked Turco out, who over-committed too far out from the goal. Michalek only had to hold onto the puck a half second longer before tossing it into an empty net. When intermission came, the Sharks went to the locker room with good spirits and the all-important lead. They were poised to tie the series 1-1, after falling to Dallas on Friday evening.
But things horribly went wrong when the final third period commenced. Within thirty seconds, Dallas forward Brad Richards fired a wrist shot that rocketed past San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov's glove. Game tied, 2-2. Richards was a trade deadline acquisition for the Stars, who seemed to return to his old form, when he won the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP in 2004 while on the Tampa Bay Lightning.
At 16:21, the Stars' power play proved deadly as alternate captain Mike Modano scored to give them the lead 3-2. Afterwards, it became obvious that a change had happened to the Sharks. They seemed to tense themselves too much, feeling too cautious to be overly physical. Whenever they had the puck, they were too eager to pass it and failed to develop any viable offensive breakout. Their cautiousness backfired, as their defense left too much room for Richards to throw the puck in front of the San Jose goal. His teammate Niklas Hagman took advantage of the loose puck, and raced hard to the net. Hagman twitched his trigger-ready wrists for another Dallas Stars goal. They now lead, 4-2.
By this time, the San Jose crowd had gone from passionate cheers to raucous booing. With 1:15 left and San Jose's goalie pulled, Hagman scored on the empty net to cap off an embarrassing loss for the home team.
If it was any consolation for the San Jose Sharks and their fans, they possessed the best road record in the regular season. The next two games of the series now goes to Dallas, Texas, where the Stars only need two more wins to advance to the next round. Game three on Tuesday will be a "must-win" for the Sharks.
NEXT GAME: Tuesday, April 29th 7:30 pm ET on Versus