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Sharks' window may have closed with Joe Pavelski's near miss

Forward hits crossbar, post with shot late in third period of Game 6 loss to Oilers

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- Joe Pavelski hit the crossbar and post on the same shot Saturday, twice an inch or so from scoring the 43rd Stanley Cup Playoff goal of his career and giving the San Jose Sharks a shot at extending their postseason run.

Fate, on this night, was especially unkind to the Sharks and their dynamic forward. Talk about painting the finest of lines -- the definition between winning and losing.

 

[RELATED: Complete Edmonton vs. San Jose series coverage | Campbell: Role players stepped up for Oilers]

 

Some Sharks fans, perched in the upper reaches of SAP Center, celebrated prematurely, thinking Pavelski had tied Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round against the Edmonton Oilers 2-2 with 3:46 remaining.

But Pavelski's backhand did not go in, and the Oilers maintained their one-goal lead.

Edmonton survived a late push to deny the Sharks, Connor McDavid scored an empty-net goal to make it 3-1 with less than a second to go, and the Oilers won the best-of-7 series 4-2.

Pavelski said he hadn't seen a replay of his shot off the crossbar and post. He probably won't need to, likely replaying it in his mind in the spring and summer.

"In practice, you work on certain situations like that and you send a few in, some go in off the post," he said. "I initially shot it. I kind of turned around and saw it came out of the net weird. … I thought maybe there was a chance it hit an inside bar.

"It felt good coming off the stick, it really did. It was there."

Video: EDM@SJS, Gm6: Pavelski puts late backhand off iron

The Oilers will play the Anaheim Ducks in the second round. They advanced in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the last time they made the postseason.

And just like that, San Jose, the 2016 Western Conference champion, is done. Now the Sharks are facing questions about their future, not about facing the Ducks.

The questions this time around are pressing, considering two cornerstones of the franchise, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Age is an issue too: Nine of the Sharks in the lineup for Game 6 are 30 or older.

"Every year I've been in this league, the team has never been the same the next year," San Jose center Logan Couture said. "There's always been changes. Unfortunately, that's the way this league works. We'll see what happens this summer and come back hungrier next year."

Is their window of opportunity still open?

"It's too soon to say," Pavelski said. "People would have said two years ago it was closed, and [we] make a run."

Couture was asked if the group was ready for another go with Thornton and Marleau.

Video: EDM@SJS, Gm6: Marleau buries Couture's nice dish

His response was immediate.

"You're asking a guy that's played with those guys for eight years," he said. "I love those guys. They play hard. If you guys only knew what they play through. The respect level I have for those two guys is through the roof."

Marleau, who has played his entire 19-season NHL career with the Sharks, said he wasn't even thinking about his future with the organization. It was all too emotionally raw after the loss.

"There will be time to reflect on all that," he said. "Just upset about losing tonight."

The Sharks started the series in injury deficit. Thornton injured his left knee April 2 and missed the final three regular-season games before sitting the first two against the Oilers. Couture took a shot in the face March 25 against the Nashville Predators. He returned for Game 1 but understandably was not the player he was in the 2016 playoffs, when he led the NHL in scoring.

"We had some guys that had heroic courage in playing in this series," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "I won't get into the details of the injuries, but there's some men in there, I'm amazed found a way to get out on the ice and do what they were able to do, especially Joe Thornton. When it gets released what he was dealing with, it was pretty exceptional to see what he did and how he played for us."

Every season, there's talk of the Stanley Cup hangover for the winning team. This year, it was the Pittsburgh Penguins, who defeated the Sharks in six games in the Final in 2016. But San Jose had to overcome the same fatigue of the long grind without the championship to show for it.

"Everyone talked about getting to the finals the year before and how tough the next year is, and you always think you can be the team to buck that," DeBoer said. "It's hard. It's a grind. I'm not prepared to take inventory of what went wrong. But my gut feeling is we ran out of some gas here the last month. That's just a reality."

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