SAN JOSE, Calif. – When the San Jose Sharks discarded all caution and finally decided to attack in Game 5, they were down two goals on the scoreboard and two games in the series, with playoff elimination just 14 minutes away.
The Sharks started pressing, and Milan Michalek got their first goal. They started taking chances, and Jeremy Roenick’s high-risk pass set up Brian Campbell’s tying score.
When overtime rolled around, the Sharks were soaring – and Joe Pavelski got the goal that put the Sharks halfway to a historic post-season comeback.
Pavelski scored 65 seconds into the third overtime game of this second-round series, and the Sharks evaded elimination for the second straight time Friday night, improbably rallying from a late two-goal deficit to beat the Dallas Stars 3-2.
The Sharks just won’t go away – and now they’re going back to Dallas for Game 6 on Sunday night with a 3-2 series deficit.
“We said, ‘Let’s go out and throw out everything we have in the third period,”‘ Roenick said. “‘Let’s just empty the tanks and put out every effort we possibly have. If we do that, we’ll have a shot.”‘
San Jose is just the fourth team in the past 20 seasons to stretch a series even to six games after trailing 0-3. As Sharks coach Ron Wilson has reminded his players, only two teams in NHL history have recovered from such dire circumstances to win a series: the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 and the New York Islanders in 1975.
“I think there’s a little bit of doubt in their mind,” Wilson said. “This (comeback) doesn’t happen very often, and then you top it off with this (game). … We’ve done a lot of things that are great for our character, to show that we have it. At times tonight we showed our nerves and our younger players showed their youth, but we survived. We really took it to them.”
The second-seeded Sharks’ inconsistent brilliance defined the NHL’s second-best regular season, and they were unsurprisingly listless before Michalek and Campbell scored in a 5:47 span in the third period, with Campbell firing home the tying goal with 8:53 to play.
Pavelski ended it before some fans had even settled in their seats for overtime, dangling in the slot and beating Stars goalie Marty Turco for an unassisted goal after defenceman Christian Ehrhoff kept the play alive with an aggressive pinch.
“I just kept pushing it and pushing it,” said Pavelski, who has a team-leading five goals in his breakout post-season. “It’s really one of the only shots I have as a shooter coming around. (Dallas defenceman Nicklas Grossman) is going to drop. If he does move at all, it’s going to open up, and the short side was just there. That’s where I was shooting the whole time.”
Jere Lehtinen and captain Brenden Morrow scored second-period goals for the Stars, who controlled play and seemed headed for an easy evening at the Shark Tank, where they dominated the home team over the past two years.
Morrow also had two apparent goals that were waved off by the officials, one for kicking the puck into the net and another for batting it with his hand.
“Our team battles through adversity, but those were two critical points of the game,” Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. “I still haven’t seen a distinct kicking motion, but I suppose somebody else did. The other one, I agree with the call … but if Brenden Morrow isn’t cross-checked in the back, he would have put the puck down and in the back of the net. Those are two critical plays in the game, and you have to find a way to overcome that.”
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 24 shots for the Sharks, and Turco made 19 saves in yet another playoff game to forget. Turco was working on a shutout before he and his defence allowed three goals in less than 15 minutes.
After holding off the defending champion Ducks in the first round, Dallas opened the second round with back-to-back victories at the Shark Tank, where the Stars were 8-0-1 in their past nine appearances before blowing Game 5. San Jose staved off elimination with a 2-1 victory in Game 4 in Dallas, the third of four one-goal games in this scintillating series.
“Every game we lose, we give them more life, but I like our position better than theirs,” Morrow said. “The third period was our downfall. We have to move on, earn our breaks. We earned this 3-2 lead.”
Lehtinen got Game 5’s first goal midway through the second period on a setup pass from Sergei Zubov for his fourth goal of the post-season. After Mike Modano rang a shot off the post moments later, Morrow appeared to score when he forced defenceman Matt Carle into Nabokov’s crease and the puck deflected off them.
Replay officials ruled Morrow had scored with his skate, infuriating the Dallas bench – but Morrow then left no doubt with a low wrist shot through Nabokov in the final minute of the second period.
Morrow put the puck in the net again during a power play early in the third, but the on-ice officials ruled he had knocked it in with his hand. The call was upheld by a lengthy video review.
Notes: Sharks D Kyle McLaren is still out with a groin injury, and Dallas F Stu Barnes missed his second straight game with a head injury. McLaren and Dallas D Philippe Boucher missed the entire series. … After Morrow’s first apparent goal was waved off, he put a white towel on the end of his stick in hockey’s famed gesture of mock surrender. Veteran coach Roger Neilson is credited with starting the white-towel gesture when he didn’t like the officiating in a 1982 playoff game while he coached the Vancouver Canucks. … The club scoring first has lost all five games in the series.