Over the course of their history, the San Jose Sharks have played in some pretty memorable games, but there are a few that always get lost in the shuffle for a variety of reasons. I thought that I’d take a skate down Memory Lane for a moment and recall one playoff game that deserves to be on the “most memorable” list.
May 6, 1994: The Explosion
We’ve all chronicled the Sharks’ victory over Detroit in the 1994 Western Conference Quarterfinals many times, and we’ll never forget Game Six of the next round against Toronto, when a post denied Johan Garpenlov’s chance to score a series winner in overtime. But in that Toronto series, Game Three provided an opportunity for a fan explosion that ranks among the greatest, and least discussed, moments in Sharks’ playoff history.
San Jose had defeated Detroit, but they won Game Seven on the road. Then, they split the first two games of their series against the Maple Leafs. When the Men in Teal hit the ice in San Jose on May 6, 1994, it was the first time that Sharks fans could gather at the building now known as HP Pavilion to celebrate together, and to show their appreciation for what their team had accomplished.
You could call it a “delayed reaction,” but I simply call it the “fan explosion.” Before the Sharks had ever hit the ice, there was electricity that rocketed its way back and forth across the arena like an alternating current. Fans couldn’t wait to see their favorite players.
When the team came out onto the ice, it was the first time that their fans had an opportunity to show how much they appreciated what had happened. The noise level was incredible, and just when everyone thought that the level would lower, it got louder.
There were “only” 17,190 fans in attendance that night, because that was the capacity of the building in those early years. But that moment was certainly one of my favorites in Sharks history, simply because of the fan explosion.
The game that followed was a great one, too. At 3:21 of the opening frame, team captain Bob Errey took a feed from my current broadcast partner Jamie Baker and fired a shot past Leafs’ goaltender Felix Potvin to send the crowd into a new level of hysteria. About four minutes later, Nikolai Borschevsky tied the game with his first goal of the playoffs.
At this point, trouble came to the Sharks when defenseman Vlastimil Kroupa took a five-minute penalty for high sticking and an automatic game misconduct. But the crowd inspired the Sharks to kill off the full five minutes, during which my radio partner took matching roughing minors with Toronto’s Mike Gartner.
Completely unfinished, Baker came out in the second period and scored his third goal of the playoffs, assisted by Errey and Ray Whitney at the 29 second mark on what proved to be the game-winning play. But 1:49 later, Ulf Dahlen broke things open with another goal that briefly sent Potvin back to the Maple Leafs’ bench.
Ten seconds after Damian Rhodes entered the game, Potvin was back in the crease, but his life didn’t get any easier. San Jose broke an 0-for-17 streak on the power play when Dahlen scored his second goal of the game to make it 4-1. The crowd was in a joyous state at this point.
Toronto got one back on Borschevsky’s second goal of the game, this one on the power play, and the Maple Leafs outshot the Sharks, 9-7, in the third period. But Dahlen would make history at 17:38 of that final period, when he took passes from the late Gaetan Duchesne and Tom Pederson and beat Potvin for his third goal of the night. It was the first post-season hat trick in Sharks’ history.
Where was my trusted broadcast partner late in the game, after having picked up the game winner and a big assist in the 5-2 victory? Well, true to form , he was involved: the game sheet shows that with 38 seconds remaining in the contest, my buddy Bakes picked up two minutes for charging, two minutes for high sticking, and a 10 minute misconduct.
Jamie’s total numbers: 1 game winning goal, 1 assist, and including another roughing minor, 18 penalty minutes. The Sharks’ numbers: a 5-2 win, and a 2-1 lead in the best of seven series.
It was just another story of how a group of players were willing to give everything they had to achieve their very best. Along with Dahlen’s hat trick and the fan explosion, it was just another example of why hockey is the greatest game in the world.