MANNHEIM, Germany -- The game certainly didn't go the way the San Jose Sharks had hoped. At no point in the build-up to their Compuware NHL Premiere Challenge game with the DEL's Adler Mannheim did they plan on trailing deep into the third period.
But at the end of the day, the Sharks could say they closed their preseason with a 3-2 victory against a team that gave everything it had.
In the final 6:14 of the third period, Sharks forwards Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi turned a 1-0 deficit -- one they faced just 4:01 into the first period after a goal by Adler Mannheim's Manuel Klinge -- into a 2-1 lead with goals 1:51 apart. But Adler Mannheim's Jame Pollock tied the score at 2-2 with 3:11 remaining to force overtime.
After a scoreless five minutes, the Sharks were staring an embarrassing loss directly in the face. They trailed 1-0 in the shootout, but Ryane Clowe's gorgeous backhand goal forced a fourth round, where Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi stopped Nathan Robinson and Dan Boyle finished things off with the clinching shootout goal.
Afterward, Sharks coach Todd McLellan wasn't pleased, but he found a silver lining.
"I'm happy we got to play in that kind of game," McLellan said. "I think it was important for us to play in it. It had some seriousness to it. It had some intense moments. We had to shorten our bench, which we normally don't do in exhibition season. We go to play 4-on-4 in overtime. We got to work on the shootout. So there was a lot of good things for our team to go through.
"With that being said, I don't think we played our best, especially early in the game. But we can't just reflect on our game. We have to give them credit. They were a very well-prepared team, obviously very well-coached, very committed to the way they play the game, very good system. They made it difficult on us the whole night."
Some of the Sharks said they had a hard time adjusting to the wider ice. Others said Adler Mannheim brought an organized attack to the rink and that's why they were so close to pulling the shocking upset.
Dany Heatley said at no point did the Sharks take Adler Mannheim lightly.
"We know it's a very good league over here and they've been a top team in this league for a lot of years and a lot of good players," Heatley said. "You always want to finish the preseason with a win, but I thought they played very well tonight. I thought their goaltenders played very well."
That might be the understatement of the preseason.
Fred Brathwaite and Lukas Lang shared the load for the Adler Mannheim. Brathwaite gave way to Lang with 10:30 remaining in the second period after stopping all 20 shots he faced, a plan decided before the contest. Lang would be handed the loss, but his 38 saves on 40 shots showed he was anything but the scapegoat on this night.
"I tried to do my best, I'm just a little mad that we lost it," Lang said. "I got that one shot (Clowe's) over my shoulder, but yeah, OK. It's a very good team we played against and I'm very proud that was apart of that game tonight."
Klinge got Adler Mannheim on the board early with a bit of a fluky goal.
Teammate Mario Scalzo flipped a long dump-in that was mishandled by Niemi. The puck came to rest a few feet in front of the net, and defensemen Mike Moore and Niclas Wallin were unable to clear it from danger. Robinson swooped in and moved the puck to Klinge, who buried it into a gaping net to whip the 13,600 fans in attendance into a frenzy.
"Puck took a bad bounce, then a bad rebound and he buried it," said Niemi, who stopped 27 of 29 shots. "They were throwing pucks to the net from the middle of the ice and from far and it was bouncing."
That's how things stayed for the next 50 minutes of game time before Thornton and Setoguchi rose to the occasion.
With just 6:14 remaining in the third period, Thornton banged home a rebound to tie the score and take the air out of the building. He followed a Setoguchi rush down the right wing and had a tap-in waiting after Setoguchi tumbled over Lang.
Not long after, Setoguchi put the Sharks ahead 2-1 with a 5-on-3 goal that seemed to be the nail in the coffin of Adler Mannheim. Setoguchi took a cross-ice pass from Boyle and launched a one-timer that was stopped by Lang. But the rebound came right back to Setoguchi, who ripped his second chance past a helpless Lang.
But Pollock evened the score with a 4-on-4 goal with 3:11 remaining, setting the stage for a furious finish. There was enough drama in overtime for an entire game.
The Sharks appeared to have the win with 46 seconds left in overtime when the puck trickled behind Lang, but a referee's whistle blew the play dead before the puck crossed the line. But a penalty on Scott King during the attack gave the Sharks a power play for the final moments.
It appeared yet again that the Sharks were on the verge of winning seconds later when Lang was lying prone on the ice with the puck in Adler's zone. But once again, a referee's whistle blew the play dead. This time it was for Lang, who was grabbing at his legs and appeared seriously injured, but Lang said afterward he took an elbow to the head and was dazed at the time.
Was it pretty? Of course not. But to a man, the Sharks were happy to get a win in the final preseason game and use the next couple days to get ready for the start of the regular season when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 8-9 in Stockholm.
"I don't think it was the game we wanted to play overall. Exhibition is over with and we've got six days before the real season starts," Setoguchi said. "We get another couple days to get adjusted to the sleep patterns. I know a couple guys definitely who woke up for their naps today definitely could've slept for 8 more hours. When the time comes, we'll be ready to go and start the season with a bang."