The San Jose Sharks have run smack into the path of playoff adversity, and the circumstances by which it has arrived have been exceedingly uncomfortable for players, coaches, and the fan faithful.
There will be those who wish to abandon ship. There will be those who wish to crawl into the fetal position in a corner of a room, or who prefer to engage in an endless session of hand-wringing, assuming that the worst is here. There are no such characters inside the San Jose Sharks’ dressing room.
In a sense, Game 2 was a case of the hockey gods giving one back to the Kings, in a returned favor from an even more unlikely Sharks playoff comeback at the Staples Center just two short years earlier.
It was Tuesday, April 19, 2011, and it was another playoff game between the Sharks and the Kings. Los Angeles had just won the previous game in the series, 4-0, with Jonathan Quick picking up the shutout. Unlike this season, it was Game 3 of the best-of-seven playoff series, but it was also at the Staples Center, since L.A. didn’t have home ice advantage.
Los Angeles jumped out to a 4-0 lead, on goals by Willie Mitchell, Kyle Clifford, Michal Handzus, and Brad Richardson. At the 0:44 mark of the second period, Antti Niemi was on the bench, Antero Niittymaki was in goal, and the Sharks were looking at adversity smack in the face.
Had the Kings won that game, as they likely should have, they would have taken a 2-1 lead in the best of series, but the hockey gods were on the Sharks’ side in that memorable contest. The comeback began when Patrick Marleau scored at 3:08 of the second period. San Jose made it a 4-3 game before Los Angeles again took a 2-goal edge. But then, two goals scored in rapid succession, at 18:35 and 19:29 of the second period, evened the score. In the third period, no one scored. The game went into overtime. The winner came at 3:09, when Devin Setoguchi ended one of the more unlikely comebacks in playoff history. The Sharks won, 6-5, and took a 2-1 series lead.
That series took six games to win, including three that went to overtime. This season’s series is not likely to be any different.
In last night’s Game 2, the Sharks fought back from a 2-0 deficit to take the 3-2 lead. They had that lead with three minutes to play, and it seemed as if there weren’t going to be any penalties called. Logan Couture was manhandled by Slava Voynov behind the Kings net, and play continued. But on the other side of the ice, penalties called to Brad Stuart for tripping and Marc-Edouard Vlasic for delay of game gave Los Angeles the power play opportunities they needed, and they converted.
Okay, so the Sharks are down, 0-2, in the series. The home team has won, as they did during the regular season series. Now, the action shifts back to HP Pavilion, where the fans will be screaming their heads off and where the Sharks are already focusing on winning Game 3.
It’s the only way to approach it. It’s how the defending Stanley Cup champions approached it when they lost the first two games of their first round series against the St. Louis Blues. Instead of allowing themselves to be swallowed up by the emotion of the disappointment, the Kings put their heads to the grindstone and ripped off four consecutive wins to capture the series. They accepted the challenge.
Now, the Sharks have the opportunity to do the same thing, and the only focus that they have is on Game 3. They have the opportunity to show that this is a different club than seasons past. Now, they can show Los Angeles their version of home ice advantage. Now is the time for all good Sharks fans to come to the aid of their hockey team.
It’s going to be intense, emotional, and a whole lot of fun. Don’t miss it!