A classic hockey game was shaping up at the Pepsi Center last night between the top seeded San Jose Sharks and the eighth seeded Colorado Avalanche. All it needed was a classic finish and what transpired last night is sure to be talked about for years to come.
The San Jose Sharks, who have authored the book on epic playoff collapses, added another chapter to their woeful story last night. Both goalies were superb throughout regulation. Avalanche net minder Craig Anderson stopped 50 shots and his counterpart Evgeni Nabokov, who didn’t have to work as hard, stopped all 16 Avalanche pucks that were launched at him. Suddenly, 51 seconds into the overtime period, the Sharks finally scored the game’s first goal. Unfortunately, they scored it into their own net and now find themselves down 2-1 to the Colorado Avalanche in this best-of-seven quarterfinal series.
Ryan O’Reilly was credited with the goal; although no one is absolutely sure his stick touched the puck. Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News described the bizarre sequence of events best: Sharks defensemen Dan Boyle attempted to pass the puck back to teammate Douglas Murray, who was behind the net. Instead, the puck ticked the shaft of O'Reilly's stick and squeezed past Nabokov, who was properly positioned, hugging the right post. But there was just enough space for the puck to somehow find the net.
"We didn't beat their goalie," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We found a way to beat ours."
Anderson is used to seeing a large number of pucks being flung at him. He leads the NHL in shots faced and saves this season. Even though his team was out shot by the Sharks at a 3 to 1 margin, Anderson never lost focus and continued to make fantastic saves to keep his team in the game. Devin Setoguchi, who scored the overtime game winner for the Sharks in Game 2, tried to ram a puck past Anderson in front of the net, but “Andy”, as the fans were chanting all night long, managed to position his skate just in time to stop it. San Jose out shot Colorado 42-7 over the final two periods.
"When you work hard and you stay positive, good results happen and you get the lucky bounces," Anderson said. "It's remarkable."
"We can't change what happened," Nabokov said. "We should be proud of ourselves, the way we played. Sometimes, you have to tip your hat to Anderson. He played really well and he kept them in there."
Let’s hope the Sharks have short memories and put this one behind them quickly. I know their fans won’t.
AROUND THE NHL
The Phoenix Coyotes took back their home ice advantage with a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at the Joe Louis Arena yesterday afternoon. Petr Prucha, the ex-New York ranger, had the game winner at 8:16 of the third period and Sami Lepisto scored the fastest playoff goal in franchise history 29 seconds into the game that gave the Coyotes an early lead. Despite Vernon Fiddler being scratched and the loss of Shane Doan to an upper body injury, the Coyotes controlled the puck for most of the game.
"They just got better," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "With no Fiddler and no Doan, they had the puck more than we did." Game 4 is tomorrow night in Detroit.
Up at the United Center in Chicago, Blackhawks goalie Antii Niemi blanked the Nashville Predators 2-0 to even their best-of-series at one game apiece. Dave Bolland scored on a second period power play and Patrick Kane scored an insurance goal at 4:18 of the third.
"Nobody really filled his role," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought their goaltender saw way too many pucks. We made it easy on him. ... You've got to fight for inches. We didn't fight for those inches. We need to be in his face a little more and make him fight through and find pucks.”
"Antti came off a game where we were all disappointed. It was a nice response by him," Chicago Joel Quenneville said. “We were more tenacious in the puck area, we had more traffic at the net, better board play and better in the scrum areas. ... There was more energy in our game." The series shifts to Nashville on Tuesday night for Game 3.
Across the border in Ottawa, the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins took a 2-1 series lead over the Senators last night with a 4-2 victory. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each scored a goal to go along with goals from Alexei Ponikarovsky and Bill Guerin.
At one point the Senators thought they had tied the game with 40.8 seconds to go in the first period, but the referee ruled that the puck was kicked in. Game 4 is tomorrow night in Ottawa and the Penguins will surely look to put a stranglehold on the Senators.
And finally, down to Broad Street in Philadelphia last night where the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers battled in the night’s second overtime game (well technically it was the first).
Flyer’s tough guy, Daniel Carcillo, who has probably knocked out more guys on the ice than knocked pucks past an opposing goalie, was the unlikely hero last night scoring the game winner at the 3:35 mark in overtime.
Mike Richards set up the goal off a pair of shots against the sensational Martin Brodeur. Richards' first shot bounced off Brodeur. Richards then slid the second one past Brodeur to Carcillo -- who put it behind Brodeur. (espn.com)
"Richards was banging away and they seemed occupied with him," Carcillo said. "It was a pretty easy tap in for a game winner. I'm still kind of shaking. It was huge. It was awesome. Everybody dreams of a goal like that."
Game 4 is tomorrow night at the Wachovia Center.
Some information and quotes from ESPN.com were used in this story