Sharks captain Joe Thornton made sure of that Monday night by scoring at 2:22 of overtime to give the Sharks a 4-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center.
The victory clinched the Western Conference Quarterfinal series for the Sharks in six games, with three of their four victories coming in overtime.
"I don't really know what happened," Thornton said after collecting the first overtime goal of his postseason career. "All I knew was the puck kind of popped out and was bouncing in front of the net. I just grabbed it and put it in the open net. It was a pretty good play by whoever shot the puck."
Actually, Devin Setoguchi said he made a poor play when he tried to hit Patrick Marleau with a pass that didn't connect.
"I saw Patty going to the net and I made a terrible pass," Setoguchi said. "It hit him in the skate and Jumbo went to the net and put it in. It was kind of a lucky play."
Said Marleau: "It went off my stick and then my skate. But it was a good play by Seto to see me and it ended up in the right spot. It went off my skate and right over to Joe, so it worked out great."
Thornton's winner came shortly after the Sharks finished killing off the Kings' five-minute power play that began with 3:23 left in the third period when Jamie McGinn slammed Brad Richardson into the boards and was given a major charging penalty and an automatic game misconduct.
Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, who finished with 26 saves, made a couple of clutch stops as time was winding down in regulation. He thwarted Ryan Smyth barreling down the middle and smothered a shot by Dustin Brown.
"That's huge at the end, knowing you've got to stop the pucks to go to overtime," Niemi said. "We did a great job letting me see the puck."
The Kings, who scored twice on power plays earlier in the game, still had 1:37 of power-play time to work with to begin the overtime but didn’t even register a shot on goal.
"To kill that off was good," Thornton said. "Once we killed that off, we thought we had a good chance here, that we'd get the momentum after killing that, and we did."
Asked about the call on McGinn, Sharks coach Todd McLellan paused. "Uh, you know what? Let's move on for the next series,” he said.
Kings coach Terry Murray lamented his team's inability to take advantage of such a glorious opportunity.
"That's a critical moment in the game right there," he said. "We had a chance to put it away. I thought we did with about 17 seconds left in the game. There was a celebration going on, people were throwing their arms in the air. I thought it was over. But again, that's a missed opportunity."
McLellan had plenty of praise for the penalty-killing units with the game on the line and for Niemi, who was pulled twice in the series and allowed three goals on four shots in Saturday’s 3-1 loss in San Jose.
"Nemo is our go-to guy," McLellan said. "We really believe in him. There was no hesitation to put him back in. We feel very comfortable with (backup Antero Niittymaki) there and his experience, but the guys firmly believe in Nemo. They have played against him and he's stoned them, and he's gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Now they're playing with him and they've seen the effect he's had in the last three months, and they want him in the pipes."
Perhaps inspired by the presence of Wayne Gretzky, the Kings were attempting to win a series after trailing 3-1 for only the second time in franchise history. They did it in 1989 by defeating Edmonton in the Smythe Division semifinals with Gretzky leading the way against his former Oilers teammates.
The Kings erased 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits Monday, tying the game for the final time with 8:21 remaining in the third period on a power-play goal by Trevor Lewis. Jarret Stoll launched a shot from the left point that hit a skate in front, and Lewis knocked in the loose puck.
Dany Heatley's goal at 8:48 of the period put the Sharks in front 3-2. Ryan Clowe lofted a long pass from the right side and the puck came free when it struck the Sharks' Marc-Edouard Vlasic and the Kings' Brad Richardson, who collided. Heatley cruised down left wing and beat goalie Jonathan Quick to the far side with a wicked shot off the crossbar.
"I just came off the bench and Clowe threw kind of a jump ball and it ended up in someone's feet," Heatley said. "I just kind of poked it ahead and made the shot."
The Kings had pulled to within 2-2 just 18 seconds into the period when Smyth passed to Stoll and skated down the slot to chip the rebound of Stoll's shot into the net.
The Sharks broke a 1-1 tie at 16:52 of the second period on a goal by defenseman Jason Demers, who converted Joe Pavelski's cross-ice pass from the left wing boards.
Pavelski dug out the puck and fed Demers skating in from the blue line. Demers fired the puck from the right circle past Quick for his second goal of the series, matching the total he posted in 75 regular-season games.
Kyle Wellwood opened the scoring at 2:58 of the period off a pass from Thornton. Wellwood moved to the right hash marks for a shot that found the top right corner of the net.
The Sharks sandwiched power plays around Wellwood's goal, but the Kings killed them off. The Sharks went 0-for-3 on power plays Monday and 2-for-23 in the series.
The Kings got on the board at 13:27 on a power-play goal by Justin Williams after Thornton was assessed a double minor for high-sticking Richardson.
Niemi made three saves when the Sharks killed off the first two minutes, but the Kings converted 14 seconds into the second penalty. Lewis passed to Jack Johnson skating down left wing for a shot that Niemi stopped, but the rebound slid all the way into the middle of the right circle and Williams fired it over the goalie's left pad.
1 - 0 SJS
1 - 1 Tie