And it was as bizarre a goal as they come, credited to Avalanche center Ryan O'Reilly 51 seconds into the extra period for a 1-0 Colorado victory at the Pepsi Center and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference quarterfinal series.
O'Reilly, a 19-year-old rookie, still wasn't sure after the game how he scored, but he thought he managed to get his stick on the puck after Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle tried to backhand it behind his own net.
Instead, the puck wound up behind stunned Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who faced 17 shots while Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson made a home playoff record 51 saves.
"Every goal's not going to be a highlight goal," O'Reilly said. "Bounce the puck across the line and we win. Can't hope for anything better than that. I tried to get my stick on it and I just saw it trickle in. I didn't know what to think. I couldn't really believe it."
"We didn't beat their goalie," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We found a way to beat ours."
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said it was as strange an ending as he's ever experienced.
"It's certainly right up there, there's no question," he said. "I'd like to think I've seen my fair share of hockey, but once in a while you see something like that. We'll obviously take it.
"I saw our guy chip the puck behind their 'D,' which is something we were preaching all night. Obviously it was a very fortunate bounce for us. I saw Boyle go back, he got the puck on his backhand. He was probably trying to go behind the net with it, I'm sure, and it just found a way to go in."
Nabokov was as shocked as anyone in the building at the sudden ending.
"I was watching the puck and I'm seeing how (Boyle) hits the puck," he said. "It's supposed to go around and my eyes go around, and all of a sudden it hits a shaft and goes in. I don't even know where it went in, somewhere between the pads and the post on the short side.
"But what can you do? It's a series of seven; we have to get going. We played well and if we're going to continue to play well, we have to work on it."
Anderson and solid penalty killing were the only reasons the outcome wasn't decided in regulation.
The Sharks were especially dominant in the second and third periods, when they never seemed to lose possession and outshot the Avalanche 42-7.
The sellout crowd chanted "An-dy, An-dy" numerous times as the goalie made one big save after another. He set an NHL playoff record by making 50 saves in regulation without allowing a goal.
"It's an experience," Anderson said. "It's better that way than having them boo you. I don't think we'd like it if they booed us right now. It's definitely uplifting. It raises your spirits. It gives you a little extra momentum that maybe you shouldn't have."
Led by defenseman Kyle Cumiskey, who blocked five shots, the Avalanche finished with 22 blocks.
"I know we've got some guys with bruises because they were blocking a lot of shots," Anderson said. "That makes it easier for me when they are paying the price like that. It's one less save I've got to make. I can't do it all by myself."
Fifteen of the Sharks' shots came on six power plays. The Avalanche had problems killing penalties down the stretch in the regular season, but they've killed 11 of 12 in the first three games of the series.
"You don't want to take that many, but it happens," O'Reilly said. "I thought we did a great job. Andy stood on his head for us there. It gives us confidence."
Avalanche captain Adam Foote said Anderson's performance reminded him of former teammate and Hall of Famer Patrick Roy, who backstopped Colorado to Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001.
"Andy stole the game," Foote said. "You saw Patrick do it when we went on our runs. No matter how good your team is, your goalie has to steal you a game. Andy did that."
Both teams played without star forwards.
The Sharks scratched Dany Heatley because of an undisclosed injury and the Avalanche lost Milan Hejduk to what the team said is an upper-body injury at 2:06 of the first period.
Hejduk was hurt when he collided with teammate Paul Stastny while they were skating across the Sharks blue line on a power play. Hejduk's head hit Stastny's shoulder and he fell to the ice. Hejduk lay face down for a while and needed help getting to the trainer's room.
The Avalanche also lost right wing Ryan Stoa to a lower-body injury in the second period. Stoa, making his playoff debut, was in the lineup because Kevin Porter suffered an upper-body injury in Game 2.
Shift of the Night: Rookie Ryan O'Reilly probably dreamed of a top-shelf rifle shot or a neat little backhander as his means of scoring the overtime winner, but his pressure on defenseman Dan Boyle in the San Jose zone caused the Sharks defenseman to hurry an attempted backhanded clear which instead ended up in his own net on one of the first shifts of the extra period, giving the Avalanche a 2-1 series lead.
1st OT Period
1 - 0 COL
Holding the stick
Too many men on the ice