2011 NHL Playoffs: San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals Historic Comebacks

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2011 NHL Playoffs: San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals Historic Comebacks
Harry How/Getty Images
Ryane Clowe was instrumental in the Sharks historic comeback Tuesday

There are only two teams who have active streaks of four years as division champions—the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals.

But there is another trait they share that is not so flattering—an inability to carry regular season success into the postseason. In fact, they are the last two winners of the President's Trophy, and each was knocked out in the first round that season.

San Jose is 16-18 in the playoffs over the previous three years, with as many series lost (three) as won. They have not won a single game beyond the second round, getting swept out of the conference finals last season.

Washington has been even worse. They are 13-15 and have never made it out of the second round. They have lost two consecutive game sevens at home and lost two series in those three years in which they were up three games to one.

Even though they each lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion in one of those playoffs, there can be no doubt they have underachieved. Both teams have had their heart questioned.

This year there were additional questions as their usually dynamic offences struggled, leaving them on the outside of the playoff picture as late as January.

Both answered all questions about their heart and their ability to score on successive days, Tuesday and Wednesday, on the road. Both were able to draw from the adversity they faced during their regular season struggles and the defence they learned to play in those lean times to pull off historic comebacks.

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The Caps were losing 3-0 to the New York Rangers going into the third period in Madison Square Garden. The crowd was serenading Caps coach Bruce Boudreau with "Can you hear us?" in response to his criticisms of the arena and fans, and it looked like the series would return to Washington, tied.

Then the Caps turned up the heat and scored three unanswered goals to force overtime. In the second extra session, Jason Chimera got a good bounce and put home the game-winner.

Rarely in Stanley Cup history has a team come back from a three-goal deficit, much less in one period. But what the Sharks did Tuesday was even more rare.

Only three times in Stanley Cup history had a team been down by four goals and won. That is where the Sharks found themselves just 44 seconds into the second period.

After pulling goalie Antti Niemi (four goals on 10 shots), the Sharks responded, scoring five of the next six goals before the end of the period. Devin Setoguchi got the winner just 3:09 into overtime to make the Sharks the fourth team to pull off the four-goal comeback. (A look at Thursday's recap shows why they join the Caps with a chance to close out the series Saturday.)

In the process, both teams have shown resilience and the ability to elevate their games. Both have the talent to carry them on both ends of the ice.

With the struggles of the other division winners in the Eastern Conference and of the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference, could this be the year these two teams are the last standing?

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