I had written before that the Red Wings were the Sharks proverbial dragon that had to be slayed on the journey to Lord Stanley's Cup. And heading into Game Three, Joe Louis Arena might as well be named Camelot.
The Sharks knew that this would have been the toughest game so far in the series and knew they had to survive the early Detroit onslaught. Shark fans nervously waited and braced themselves to watch the intense battle unfold and hoped that this time, the script would unfold differently.
Eighteen minutes in, after a wicked one-timer from Dan Cleary upped the Red Wings lead 2-0, the Sharks seemed to be fulfilling the prophecies of playoffs past.
Despite a huge effort from Evgeni Nabokov in the first, an absolutely clutch glove save on a penalty shot from Zetterberg, the Red Wings were up two goals and the team looked flat and were playing on their heels.
But with less than two seconds left in the first stanza, our second line once again rose to the occasion. Devin Setoguchi held the puck along the boards after being rubbed out by Lidstrom sent the puck to Pavelski who tried a wrap around shot on rookie tender Jimmy Howard. Datsyuk came up with a huge play, knocking the puck off of Little Joe's stick, only to find it skipping to Devin Setoguchi.
Devin did not fail to find the back of the net as he flung a spin around shot low that beat Jimmy Howard five-hole. This late goal was huge and had the Sharks carrying the momentum into the second period or so it seemed.
This momentum did not carry through, as the proud Red Wings came out of the gate firing. The second period opened with a early goal by Zetterberg in the opening two minutes of play as the centering pass bounced off of Douglas Murray's skate and into the back of the net.
I think I speak for all Sharks fans when I say if we never see another goal go in off our defenseman's skate, it will be too soon.
With the Red Wings flush with confidence and restoring their two-goal lead, they calmly
and methodically shut down the Sharks attack cutting off their entry into the offensive zone. The second period was a battle throughout although the Red Wings continued to carry play in the Sharks zone with confident crisp passing. Captain Rob Blake played heavy minutes from late in the second period onward and was a +3 for the game.
Down 3-1 it almost seemed to be a certain loss in Game Three for the Sharks given the way they were playing late in the second period.
But the Sharks have stuck through, a theme carried since Dan Boyle put the puck into his own net in the first round. And that theme so marvelously instilled by Coach Mclellan was to overcome.
Overcome has been the theme, and the Sharks showed their true heart in the third stanza.
Many fans, myself included, had chirped and talked at length about our Team Canada line, and how they would have to step up for us to eliminate our nemesis in the Detroit Red Wings.
With 13 minutes left in the game, and the Sharks down by two, things seemed bleak. It was in that shining moment that our top line responded. Joe Thornton circled behind the net and shot the puck into the net through multiple people at 6:42 in the third to pull San Jose within a goal.
The Sharks finally began to do what had brought them there, by pushing the puck down low, taking the body and taking the play deep in the offensive zone.
It wasn't until a oddball bad angle shot by Logan Couture found it's way past Jimmy Howard and into the back of the net that the Sharks had finally come back.
As time was slipping away in regulation, the Red Wings pushed forward with renewed vigor desperately trying to score the winner before time expired. Evgeni Nabokov rose to the occasion, stonewalling a glorious chance late by Zetterberg in the third.
Overtime was a struggle of wills, as it seemed neither team wanted to make the huge mistake to lose the game. That is until the Sharks inadvertently made a mistake that won them it. A late mismanaged change had the Red Wings pressing down low in the Sharks zone, as Thornton just came off the bench.
The puck whipped around to Jumbo off a high slap shot that kept going around the glass, creating a on a 2-on-1 with Patrick Marleau in tow.
As he's done so many times, in so many games, in so many scenarios BUT this type of scenario, Joe Thornton calmly floated a beauty of a pass that even you or I could have tipped in. And Marleau did not disappoint as he buried the puck past an outstretched Howard and instantly silencing over 20,000 rabid Red Wing fans.
My three stars of the game
Joe Pavelski - Although "Little Joe" did not score a goal this game, snapping his five game streak, Pavelski did everything else flawlessly. His constant hustle and forecheck kept the Red Wings off balance and bailed out Murray, Setoguchi and Huskins on some big time erroneous defensive plays.
Joe Thornton - Joe had heard all the whispers and all the critics and even those who claimed he was soft and couldn't play in the playoffs have to admit the man has come to play. Game 1 was his wake up call, and he's been steady as they come. His Game Three performance was, dare I say...clutch?
Evgeni Nabokov - Nabby has had his share of criticism, none more louder than myself. He deserves the first star this game and more. He held the Sharks in this game when the Red Wings were dominating, and made numerous HUGE stops when called upon. He's still got a ways to go until he completely changes my mind, but he played one helluva game tonight. My hat goes off to Evgeni Nabokov tonight, and yours should too.
Goat of the Game
Jimmy Howard - He may be a big reason why the Wings are where they are this year, but he let in a softie that I know he wants back.
Now with the Red Wings on the brink of being swept, the Sharks can be assured that the toughest game is still ahead.
And when we do advance, we can take solace in that we have shown that not only are we a different team, with a different belief, but maybe a different outcome this time as well.