Sharks 3, Red Wings 0: Why Winning Game Three Was Bigger Than You'd Think
It was May 10, 2006.
Triple overtime........just over two minutes in.............
"wraparound, Horcoff scooreeeeesss!!!! Shawn Horcoff!!!"
That was the story of Game 3 in the 2006 Western Conference Semi-final series between the Sharks and Oilers.
Our beloved los tiburones (to borrow a line from the Mercury News' Marc Purdy) had won both games at home to start the series, and were a lucky bounce away from taking a commanding three games to none series lead.
Now going into that third contest, the Sharks had won six straight games and were simply sizzling, much like the way they were currently playing going into Tuesday's Game 3 in Detroit.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, when Oilers center Shawn Horcoff scored in triple OT, the air went out of their sails.
San Jose didn't win another game the rest of the playoffs, losing to the Oilers in six games.
So when Game 3 of the current series was headed for overtime, you couldn't blame this Sharks follower for remembering the devastation that was 2006.
Had the Red Wings scored to get back in the series, those doubts would creep back into the minds of all hockey fans.
Are the Sharks going to fall apart again?
Thanks to Patrick Marleau, the Sharks will not have to worry about history repeating itself this season.
The lucky bounce in this overtime went in their direction, unlike it had four years ago.
A shot from Detroit winger Jason Williams ricocheted off the glass in the Sharks zone, and snuck out into the neutral zone right to a fresh Joe Thornton who had just stepped out onto the ice.
And unlike playoffs past, Thornton didn't disappoint.
"Jumbo Joe" carried the puck into the Detroit zone on a 2-on-1 with Marleau and perfectly executed the odd man rush.
Now despite Thornton's pass-first tendencies, even yours truly thought he was going to shoot.
In fact, it looked like a sure thing that No. 19 was about to pull the trigger. But after slightly opening up towards the net, Thornton hit Marleau perfectly in stride with a tape-to-tape pass.
All "Patty" had to do was redirect the puck into a wide-open net, and he did just that, burying the game winner at 7:07 of the first overtime.
Now would the Sharks still have a chance to win the series had they lost on Tuesday?
Of course; being up 2-1 is a great place to be, and obviously when a team is up 2-1 in a series, they go on to win the series more often than not.
But this is the Detroit Red Wings. Winners of four Stanley Cups in the last 12 seasons, and still the model franchise in the NHL, reaching the Stanley Cup finals in each of the last two seasons.
Furthermore, San Jose has never fared well against the Red Wings, and the numbers back it up.
Coming into this series the Red Wings were 11-6 against the Sharks in the postseason and 3-0-1 against them during this year's regular season.
Not to mention, the Sharks had only won a combined eight times in their history (regular season plus postseason) in 44 games inside Joe Louis Arena.
So the only natural assumption for fans to make was to believe that Detroit would bounce back and take game three.
I mean the Sharks going up two games to zero was nice, but that hot streak couldn't possibly continue as the series shifted to Hockeytown, right?
This year's Sharks are a different team.
While San Jose may be benefiting from lucky bounces, it was those same freak plays that always seemed to go against them.
And in past seasons, luck was never on their side because frankly, they didn't deserve those good bounces.
Fortunately, as many people like to say, "you make your own luck."
And right now, the resiliency the Sharks are showing has earned them every ounce of luck that the hockey gods are awarding them.
Safe to say, after watching their Game Three comeback rewarded with a beneficial bounce, and a commanding 3-0 series lead, the Sharks seemed destined to continue deep into the playoffs.
With these tight playoff games continuing to fall in their favor, 2010 might just be the year for Team Teal.
But as they say, hindsight is 20/20, and had the Sharks lost, this article would have probably been 180 degrees in the other direction.
So Sharks fans be thankful, as Marleau's OT winner on Tuesday is now the biggest goal in team history.
Why? Because win or lose from here on out, that goal has put to rest the notion that when faced with tremendous expectations, the Sharks can't elevate their play when it matters most.
They can and they did.
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