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First Round

Hertl, Sharks believe heading into Game 7

Forward forces deciding game against Golden Knights with shorthanded goal in second overtime

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- Tomas Hertl was tired when he took the pass. The San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights had played more than 90 minutes of hockey by that point in the second overtime. In the neutral zone, on the penalty kill, with the season on the line, he thought maybe he should dump the puck and go for a change.

But he saw some space.

"If you don't try, you never know," the Sharks forward said. "So I tried it."


[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Golden Knights series coverage]


Hertl skated across the blue line with Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore with him stride for stride. As Theodore tried to stick check him at the top of the left circle and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury came out to challenge, Hertl shot the puck past Fleury on the short side at 11:17.

It was the first shorthanded game-winning goal in a multiple overtime game in Stanley Cup Playoff history, giving the Sharks a 2-1 victory in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday and forcing Game 7 in San Jose on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS, NBCSCA, ATTSN-RM).

Hertl did it after scoring twice in a 5-2 win in Game 5 at SAP Center on Thursday and telling the home crowd in his thick Czech accent: "Now we know we have one more game and come back for Game 7. And I believe it, because we better team than them."

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm6: Hertl rips SHG in 2OT to force Game 7

The key word was believe.

"I know the word guarantee was thrown out there," Sharks forward Logan Couture said. "But his English is a little broken. It's tough for some of us to understand him sometimes. It kind of gets lost in translation.

"But he believes, and we all believe in this room that we'd fight and we'd battle. And you never know if it's going to happen, but we had a good belief system in here that we'd give ourselves a chance to force a Game 7."

It might have been hard for some to believe in the Sharks after Game 4.

They had lost three straight games by a combined score of 16-6. Goalie Martin Jones had been pulled twice in three games. They were behind 3-1 in the best-of-7 series and were 0-for-6 in that situation in their history. Vegas went 3-0 in clinching games last year, including Game 6 of the second round at San Jose.

But the Sharks rallied with consecutive wins thanks to clutch goals by Hertl and lots of saves from Jones, who made 30 in Game 5 and set a Sharks record with 58 in Game 6.

On Sunday, San Jose was outshot 10-9 in the first period, 17-7 in the second and 17-4 in the third. With the score tied 1-1 in the third, Jones made a massive save, sliding across and getting his pad on a shot by Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith.

"We can just thank him because he was really good and just give us all chances," Hertl said.

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm6: Hertl on game-winner, looks to Game 7

The Sharks found their game in the first overtime, outshooting Vegas 8-7. Fleury robbed forward Kevin Labanc early in the period, and somehow the puck stayed out late in the period when forward Timo Meier chipped his own rebound past Fleury and defensemen Jon Merrill and Colin Miller dove into the crease to keep the puck out. Jones made another massive save shortly afterward, this time on forward Jonathan Marchessault.

"The attitude on the bench never changed," Couture said. "Obviously, there's some frustration when the puck doesn't go in the net on good chances, but we were positive and stuck with it and found a way to win."

The Sharks had been outshot 8-0 in the second overtime and seemed to be in trouble when forward Barclay Goodrow went off for slashing at 10:46. But then defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic made a pass up the middle to Hertl, who decided not to go off for a change and give it a shot.

"Relief, I guess," Jones said. "It was exciting. We'll enjoy it here for a bit and we've got to start getting ready for Game 7."

Each team can take something into Game 7. The Sharks have won consecutive games and are headed home. The Golden Knights outshot the Sharks 59-29 in Game 6 and have to feel like if they play that way again, they'll win. The only guarantees are that there aren't any.

"Guys will be ready," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "Definitely like being on home ice for a Game 7, but there's a lot of work, a lot of effort, that will need to go into it. It's not over. Find some rest and get ready for that next one."


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