The play was total textbook. Any hockey coach who saw it would have a big smile on their face.
With 5:21 left in the first overtime of Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Los Angeles, Kyle Wellwood got the puck in San Jose’s defensive zone and brought it up along the left wing. Ryane Clowe
was pumping hard up the middle.
Deep in his defensive end, Joe Pavelski
was pushing hard on his edges to get into the play. “I was just trying to catch up,” he said. “I definitely didn’t set any speed records.”
Clowe did the smart thing. Wellwood skated along the left wing with the puck and was being watched by Kings defenseman Matt Greene. So Clowe crashed the net and took Kings forward Wayne Simmonds with him. Simmonds had to hustle back on defense to cover for Greene’s defensive partner, Alec Martinez, who was deep in the Sharks end when the play started and was busy chasing Pavelski.
Meanwhile, Pavelski got into the Kings zone and was open by the right point. Wellwood saw Pavelski skate into the zone and get open. Pavelski got his pass, took the shot and scored his franchise record third overtime playoff winning goal as San Jose won, 3-2.
“Welly held on to it long enough and let me get there,” Pavelski said of Wellwood’s pass. “I got a pretty good lane to the net. Once you get a chance like that, you have to capitalize on your chances.”
“I had seen him pretty early on,” said Wellwood, who sounded like he was practicing the good hockey fundamental of seeing the play before it develops. “I was just waiting for him to get over the blueline and fortunately he made a good shot.”
What the Sharks did on that play was execute the perfect drive to the net. The puck carrier (Wellwood) scanned the ice ahead of time, skated along the wing to create space and time and patiently waited for Pavelski to get open. Meanwhile, Clowe provided Wellwood with another option by going hard to the net. Wellwood could’ve passed the puck to Clowe and hope for a deflection or a tap. Pavelski was the trailer, giving Wellwood a second option.
The final piece was Pavelski’s shot on Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. Pavelski’s wrist shot from near the top of the right circle beat his Team U.S.A. teammate from the 2010 Winter Olympics on the glove side.
“I was aiming,” Pavelski said. “It feels good to score.”
When it comes to clutch postseason goals, Pavelski more than knows the feeling of scoring. He potted the extra time winner in Game 4 of last year’s quarterfinal series against Colorado. And the first overtime goal he scored against Dallas in Game 5 of the 2008 semifinals is one of the most memorable in Sharks history. Pavelski now has seven game-winning playoff goals. Only Patrick Marleau
(12) has more. In fact, Marleau and Pavelski had shared the club record for most overtime winners in postseason until Thursday night.
“We’d like not to have it in overtime,” Coach Todd McLellan said, “but Pavs has been a tremendous player for us. We count on him in so many different situations. He’s really recognized at this time of the year as a guy who elevates his play.”
However, Pavelski almost didn’t get the chance to score the big goal. He was getting ready to come off the ice for a line change. “I was checking behind me,” he said. “I may have looked a couple of times just to make sure no one was going to catch me. Once you saw you were in the clear and you get a chance like that, you have to stay on.”