2011 NHL Playoffs: Sharks Have 4/20, EA Sports-Friendly Comeback

MJ KasprzakSenior Writer IIApril 20, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19:  Antero Niittymaki #30 and Ryane Clowe #29 of the San Jose Sharks celebrate their 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Kings in overtime of game three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on April 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

How appropriate that one of the more bizarre and impressive comebacks happens in California on the eve of this day when I can first write about it?

In 1971, the counter-culture of the Bay Area at the end of the hippie days bore us a tradition that an element of our current population commemorates in ways that would make those hippies proud (even if some of them have become the people they despised.).

What was once about smoking what the show's regular host would call "hippie lettuce" at 4:20 in the afternoon for some San Rafael high (in both senses of the word) schoolers, Damon Bruce of KNBR explains while guest-hosting on Jim Rome is Burning, has exploded into much more. He spent an entire segment talking about the tradition instead of talking sports.

Because today is April 20—expressed 4/20 numerically—the entire day is a commemoration of this sequence for some, especially in the Bay Area. And that craze inspired my piece when it brought to mind my college days, coming much later in my years than my friends, but with no more maturity.

My friends and I did what many college kids did...play video games while listening to music, of course—not that other thing you were thinking!

Which brings me back to last night (some of you will appreciate that more than others): The San Jose Sharks had a video game-like comeback on the road against the Los Angeles Kings.

After stinking up HP Pavilion en route to a 4-0 loss Saturday, Antti Niemi let in a soft goal to a stay-at-home defenceman early. Then the Sharks could not stop the Kings' attack the next shift for a 2-0 deficit just 159 seconds into the game.

San Jose killed a double-minor to Niclas Wallin, and things looked settled. But with 1:38 left in the first period, the Dustins (Brown and Penner) needed just three seconds to turn a Dan Boyle giveaway into a Michal Handzus one-timer goal.

One of my video game buddies and I debated the correction course at intermission. He felt the Sharks needed to get physical in the second period to send a message to the Kings.

I disagreed: "More physical leads to more penalties, and we have horrible penalty-killing."

"This is not about the Kings, it is about the Sharks. The Sharks are the better team and can control the game if they shake out of this four-period malaise. That is how we need to impose our will—the way the (Detroit) Red Wings would."

"Pull Niemi. Not so much because it is his fault since only the first one was. But this team needs a shake-up, and this will do it; Anterro Niittymaki is a good back-up."

Unfortunately, coach Todd McLellan left Nemo in net, who gave away another goal that he would usually stop just 44 seconds into the second period. After yielding four goals on 10 shots, McLellan sought the same solution.

This is the point at which my friends and I would do things to help us zone in on the video game...I meant like change the music!

"The Tool" was what we called the album Aenima; it was reserved for moments when we desperately needed a change in momentum. Or when we were playing a Los Angeles-based team because of the title track with lyrics calling for the city to be flushed into the Pacific by an earthquake.

The Sharks situation qualified for either of the above rules. I listen to it now while I write as a tribute, because the Sharks got that kind of change against an L.A. team.

After 40:44 of being outscored 8-0, the Sharks woke up. Scoring five of six goals in less than 23 minutes to draw to a 5-5 tie is the kind of thing you would only expect in a video game, but the Sharks pulled it off.

The third period featured no scoring, but just 3:09 into the first overtime, Devin Setoguchi ended it. Sharks play-by-play announcer Randy Hahn had called that Wallin would score the OT goal, and Drew Remenda said it would be Patrick Marleau (who opened scoring: you can click the following link to see a full recap of the game); they got the assists.

Heavy, dude—as it is that we are talking about this on 4/20, eh? (Okay, maybe that was Vancouver hippie-speak...)