Photo credit: @NBCSSharks
By Mary Walsh
SAN JOSE — For the fifth time in their history, the San Jose Sharks are going to the Western Conference Final after defeating the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 Wednesday. Sharks goals came from Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, and Joonas Donskoi. Avs goals came from Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost. Martin Jones made 27 saves for the win, while Philipp Grubauer made 24 saves in a losing effort.
Sharks captain Joe Pavelski was a game-time decision Wednesday, and the final decision was to play.
After the game, Sharks forward Logan Couture said of Pavelski: “For a guy that missed playoff action for two weeks, to have the injury that he has, to come back, set up a goal, score a goal. I wish I could tell you what he’s gone through, from seeing it first hand, you wouldn’t believe that he’s playing right now, I’ll just say that. He played unbelievable.”
Due to Pavelski’s return, Joonas Donskoi was bumped down to the fourth line and then he scored the game-winning goal. Thus, the game-winners in both Sharks Game 7s were scored by fourth-liners, which was what Logan Couture said the team needed after Game 6. Couture was asked about that after Wednesday’s game. Couture said of Donskoi:
Donny was great, we needed something, I said it last time. We needed some other guys to step up and score goals and I thought they were very very good tonight. I thought Donny played excellent: he was all over the puck, created chances. They had a really good night when maybe my line, we didn’t create much and have too too many chances. So we needed it.
Nathan MacKinnon went down with a shoulder injury in the first two minutes of play. He returned around the 15-minute mark and appeared to be able-bodied again.
The first goal of the game quieted any concerns about Joe Pavelski’s readiness to play. Tomas Hertl retrieved the puck in the corner and sent it back up the boards to Brent Burns. Burns had time to pick his spot and that spot was right on goal, through the Pavelski tip lane. Pavelski caught the puck with the bottom of his stick blade and sent it bouncing at the net, much lower than Grubauer was ready for. It was Pavelski’s third of the post season. Burns and Hertl got the assists.
The Sharks added another at 11:35. After Evander Kane sent the puck around behind the Avs net, Pavelski retrieved it and then brought it back the way it came. As he passed the net, he passed to an unguarded Hertl, right above the blue paint. Hertl knocked it in quick as a cat. Two defenders, intent on Pavelski’s movements, had not noticed Hertl back there. The one who did notice was not close enough to stop him. Assists went to Pavelski and Kane.
Mikko Rantanen scored with just seven seconds left in the first period, cutting the Sharks’ lead in half. Samuel Girard took a shot right down the slot from the blue line and Rantanen tipped it up into the net. A second assist went to Gabriel Landeskog.
Colin Wilson appeared to have tied the game near the eight minute mark of the second, but the goal was challenged by the Sharks for an offside play. Upon review, the goal was disallowed.
Joonas Donskoi came off the schneid with the Sharks’ third goal of the game. Picking up the puck near the corner, he carried it around behind the net, came out front and took a wrist shot at the near top corner. It was his first goal since January. Assists went to Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson.
The Avs scored again 51 seconds into the third period. Alexander Kerfoot’s shot came out as a rebound that Colin Wilson tried to push back in, but Vlasic got to that. Vlasic’s clearing attempt hit Hertl and bounced back toward the net. Tyson Jost was able to reach it before Jones or Vlasic could. Assists went to Wilson and Kerfoot.
The Avs pulled their goaltender with 2:10 left in regulation, but the Sharks and their goaltender held them off.
Game 1 of the Western Conference Final will be on Saturday the 11th at 5:00 PM PT. The Sharks will host the St. Louis Blues at SAP Center.