SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Turns out, Joe Thornton had every reason in the world to be confident.
"Confident. Very confident. Extremely confident," were the words Thornton used to describe the mentality of the Sharks as they approached a Game 7 with the Detroit Red Wings after watching a 3-0 series lead turn into a 3-3 tie.
On Thursday night, he was proven right. The Sharks scored first in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals and never trailed. When the Red Wings made their push, they never wavered and hung on for a dramatic 3-2 victory that propelled them away from the dubious distinction of being the fourth team to lose a series after leading 3-0 and into the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year.
Thornton assisted on the game's first goal, scored by Devin Setoguchi on the power play during the first period. It was the Sharks' first power-play goal since Game 3.
Following the victory, Thornton talked with media at his locker:
Q: Are you feeling more relieved or excited about the Game 7 victory?
A: Satisfied. It's satisfaction, yeah. We thought we'd win this game at home. We felt pretty good.
Q: Can you tell us the emotions you've gone through during this series?
A: Couple highs, couple lows. But really, this team all year -- a lot of people here right now haven't followed us -- we're pretty even-keeled all year. I think it just showed now. We went up 3-0 and didn't panic (losing the last three games). We just came out and played. That's what we did tonight.
A: He's been battling, just hasn't been putting the puck in the net. He knows he has to be better, I'm sure it took a lot of weight off his shoulders and now he's ready to go. But everybody in the Bay Area, I'm sure is happy for him.
Q: What was nicer -- the goal or the hit he made on Patrick Eaves in front of the net in the final seconds?
A: Both. He's been through a lot, and it's nice to finally see him get rewarded for what he's doing.
Q: Did you say anything to him after the goal on the bench?
A: Oh, no. I was just sucking wind at that point. I just wanted to get back and get some rest. I'm sure I'll talk to him now though.
Q: How do you feel about your teammates right now?
A: I think you're kind of proud of each other. I'm sure there are doubters who said we probably couldn't do this, but that's two years in a row we've beaten a pretty good team. I think we're a pretty good team now too.
Q: Did you read all of the stuff about teams coming back from down 3-0?
A: I really honestly believe half you guys don't know anything about the sport. So I don't care what you guys read.