The floodgates were barred shut by Marc-Andre Fleury. The Sharks failed to find the back of the net on their first four power plays and their first 25 shots. Then, Cody Eakin crosschecked Joe Pavelski, he fell backwards, his head hit the ice and he laid motionless. Eakin garnered a game misconduct and gave the Sharks five long minutes on the man advantage. Goalless and down three with under 11 minutes to go, Logan Couture received a cross-ice pass from Kevin Labanc and slung a wrister over Fleury’s right shoulder.
Couture turned to the Sharks bench and said, “That’s one.” Tomas Hertl deflected a point shot from Erik Karlsson into the back of the net. That’s two. Couture fired another wrist shot past Fleury. That’s three. Labanc darted in from the blueline and wired a goal into the far side of the night. That’s four, four power-play goals in four minutes to give San Jose life and a 4–3 lead in the twilight of the third period.
Sit down, strap in and enjoy the euphoria-inducing IV drip of playoff hockey. Because with less than a minute to go and with the net empty, Jonathan Marchessault beat Sharks goaltender Martin Jones from in close to send the game to overtime. There the two netminders, Fleury of playoff lore and Jones of postseason disrepute, traded heart-stopping, game-preserving saves and staved off playoff elimination for more than 18 minutes. Until, finally, Barclay Goodrow skated by a fatigued Brayden McNabb, and scored on his forehand past Fleury’s outstretched skate to give the Sharks a 5–4 Game 7 win and a spot in Round 2.
It took the Sharks an arduous 49 minutes before the comeback could be initiated. Three San Jose Sharks power plays and just four shots by the Golden Knights resulted in … a 1–0 Vegas lead, naturally. Fleury outdueled the Sharks and swallowed up their extra-strength chances, halting Brent Burns in the crease with an acrobatic save. Away from the penalty kill, William Karlsson won a mid-period faceoff in the offensive zone, peeled in front of the net and tapped in a rebound for the game’s first goal.
The Sharks went on the power play, again, six minutes into the second period and threw shots at Golden Knights players, the glass, the boards and everything but the back of the net. Minutes later, in a play that was reviewed for high sticking but was ultimately a good goal, Eakin tracked a McNabb slap shot through four players and deflected it past Jones.
Flower flashed his glove 37 seconds later when Timo Meier flew in between two Vegas defensemen and launched a wrist shot from the slot. San Jose couldn’t find a goal: Justin Braun whiffed at a wide-open net after Hertl clanged a rebound attempt off the goalpost. They left the second period without a goal and found themselves down by one more early in the third: Jones reverted to his human self and uncovered his five hole just enough for a Max Pacioretty wrister to eke by.
The rest will go down as the best game in San Jose Sharks history. Put a marker on “Martin Jones steals a series” for this year’s iteration of NHL Chaos Bingo. Jones was pulled twice, but the 29-year-old netminder managed to stop 88 of 91 shots in back-to-back elimination games to force a Game 7. He was mediocre for most of Tuesday’s game but regained his composure and made stops when he needed to.
San Jose moves on from a first-round slugfest to an opponent in Colorado that already cleaned up an offensive juggernaut in five games. Nathan MacKinnon is unleashing his offense at full speed, using his size and strength to dominate opponents in the offensive zone. Flanked by Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, the Avs stars trounced the Flames while Philipp Grubauer remained red-hot in net. Where Calgary was smaller and faster, the Sharks have the same depth but with more beef throughout all four lines. San Jose already overcame tough defense from the Golden Knights, and its offensive buzzsaw should stay sharp in the second round.
Should. The Sharks have been prone to earlier-than-expected postseason exits in the past. But they expelled the team that eliminated them in last year’s playoffs, and San Jose looks as primed as anyone for a run to the Stanley Cup. But, if this postseason has taught us anything, who knows?
SJS wins series 4–3 | Box Score | Full Recap
BRUINS 5, MAPLE LEAFS 1
Where the 2019 playoffs have cast logical predictions aside, Boston became the second higher seed to claim a series victory with a 5–1 Game 7 win, quelling the Maple Leafs and ending all hope of a Canadian team capturing the Stanley Cup.
Yet, the Toronto Maple Leafs opened the first period exactly how they needed to. Toronto weathered Boston’s early offensive assault. Auston Matthews launched a one-timer from the slot, but Tuukka Rask squashed the chance. Mitch Marner weaved into the slot at full speed and fired a wrister but, again, Rask gloved the shot and stonewalled Marner’s rebound opportunity. The Leafs rendered Patrice Bergeron's line invisible and forced the Bruins second line into multiple giveaways.
Snakebit by shaky defense, their efforts were for naught. Travis Dermott bungled a pass below his own face-off dot, the Bruins pounced and fourth-liner Joakim Nordstrom forced a shot through a puck-sized hole freed by Frederik Andersen along the post. Jake Gardiner saw his partner’s defensive error and complemented with one of his own: Gardiner turned the puck over behind his own net and Bruins third-liner Marcus Johansson scooped it up, wheeled below the right face-off dot and wristed a shot into the far side of the net.
Undeterred, John Tavares finally beat Rask after a Bruins giveaway and cut the deficit to one four minutes into the second period. Pause the panic. The Leafs hadn’t broken through by the period’s end but they continued to outwork and outplay the Bruins, taking a 49–27 lead in shot attempts into the game’s final 20 minutes.
Then, it wasn’t Bergeron who put the Leafs away. It wasn’t Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak or even Jake DeBrusk. Sean Kuraly tore through the neutral zone past Leafs defenders and rifled a shot past Andersen’s right glove, which Andersen had used all series to thwart Bruins chances. The Leafs’ 40-minute barrage was all but over. Matthews vanished after he spent the playoffs expelling last year’s disappointment. The Bruins wrangled control of the game and never let go. Charlie Coyle scored an empty-net goal, Bergeron buried a second empty netter, expanding the lead to 5–1, and buried another Maple Leafs postseason gambit.
Up next: The Columbus Blue Jackets, the team that first kindled postseason chaos by sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins blasted the Blue Jackets, 6–2, in their final regular season matchup on April 2, but Columbus has played like a different team. Sergei Bobrovsky, for now, has overcome a long rap sheet of disappointing playoff performances. The Blue Jackets emerged from their postseason scramble and have firmly settled in to an aggressive, north-south brand of hockey that vanquished a historically great offense.
The Bruins passed their first test. Healthy and battle tested, the Eastern Conference is Boston’s for the taking.
BOS wins series 4–3 | Box Score | Full Recap
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
The game was filled with highlight reel goals, but Goodrow’s winner was the one that sealed the Sharks’ epic Game 7 comeback. The Golden Knights were fatigued and looking for a shift change. Karlsson dealt the puck to the 26-year-old fourth line center and Goodrow sailed through the offensive zone, beat Fleury and avenged the Sharks second-round defeat to the Golden Knights last postseason.
1. Barclay Goodrow, SJS — There was no better time for Goodrow to score his second career playoff goal. Goodrow’s goal was the second overtime Game 7 winning goal in Sharks franchise history—Ray Whitney scored the first one against the Flames in 1995.
2. Tuuka Rask, BOS — Rask was tethered to the puck and stopped 24 of 25 shots sent his direction through two periods. He added another nine saves in the third while the Bruins pulled away.
3. Logan Couture, SJS — Couture’s power-play goal kicked off the comeback and “that’s one” will be immortalized in Sharks fandom. The 30-year-old center also scored San Jose’s game-tying goal and tied Hertl for the team’s most goals in its opening series against the Golden Knights.