Jeremy Roenick is playing big in the Sharks biggest postseason games.
Roenick helped the Sharks stave off elimination with a pinpoint pass that sprung Brian Campbell for the tying goal during the third period of San Jose’s 3-2 overtime victory that cut the Dallas Stars Western Conference Semifinal series lead to the same margin.
However, it wasn’t a single sequence that characterized the performance of the 19-year veteran Friday night, it was his energy and his physical play that not only helped extend the Sharks season, but helped raise the decibel-level at HP Pavilion as well.
Keep in mind that in a first-round elimination game, Roenick produced two goals and four points in a Game 7 triumph over Calgary.
The games were similar in one respect for Roenick, they illustrated the team’s competitiveness that has kept them alive after falling behind in both series.
“I think it was a big statement within the locker room,” Roenick said of Friday’s comeback from a 2-0 third-period deficit. “This team has been criticized, been put down and written about in a lot of ways saying they don’t have heart, and they don’t have the grit to do what it takes. I think there are a lot of guys that have been here a few years who are getting sick and tired of it.”
Roenick admitted the Sharks had been too passive against Dallas.
“We talked about our lack of scoring chances in previous overtime games and we wanted to take it at them as fast as we can, and get as many as we could early,” Roenick said. “We didn’t sit back. The first two overtime games, we sat back and let them come at us.”
The Sharks lost both earlier extended games, but Joe Pavelski
changed that only 1:05 into overtime, creating the need for Sunday’s Game 6 in Dallas.
The Roenick-Campbell combination was pivotal in ensuring an overtime would happen.
The sequence began when Campbell, a defenseman, gathered the puck in the Sharks’ zone, gave it to Roenick and took off. Roenick bought Campbell time by circling before firing a three-line pass that met Campbell in stride for his first goal of the postseason, at 11:07.
“I knew right where he was going,” Roenick said. “As soon as he gave me the puck, I saw him take off. So I just made a loop and waited for him to get into the clear. I hit him on the break and he made a great individual effort to put it in the net. He’s a big-time player and he made a big-time play.”
Campbell said he was hoping Roenick would deliver the puck earlier in the play, but decided to continue up the middle anyway.
“If you’re down 2-1 and you’ve got control of the puck, I don’t need to be back on that play,” Campbell said. “You’ve got to make things happen. You just try to find holes and try to get up in the rush.”
And how good was the pass?
“I just told him between periods, that I didn’t move my stick, at all,” Campbell said. “I think it was right on. It hit me in stride. It was perfect. I think it surprised Marty Turco a little bit. I don’t think he got completely set because it was a bang-bang play.”
Normally a fourth-line player, Roenick was placed in the second line, alongside Pavelski and Patrick Marleau
, by midway in the second period. The line produced the tying and winning goals.
And, just as noticeable from the crowd’s perspective, were two big hits from Roenick after Campbell’s goal.
The first, a chest-high head-on collision behind the Dallas goal, upended Stephane Robidas in what may have been the San Jose’s most spectacular check of the playoffs. Later in the third, he nailed Nicklas Grossman in another bone-rattling hit.
“We just said, ‘Let’s go out and throw everything we have at them in the third period,’ ” Roenick said. “ ‘Let’s empty the tanks. Let’s give every effort that we possibly have.’
“If you do that, we have a shot. We got the job done.”
To Sharks fans who walked out on the concourse during the second intermission of Friday night’s game, returning to their seats for the third period may have felt a bit like entering the Twilight Zone.
A possible shift in the momentum of the series? Oh yeah. The emergence of the “Never Say Die” San Jose Sharks? Definitely.
The Sharks team that emerged from the locker room after the second intermission looked like a new team. A different team. Call it a look of passion. Call it a look of desperation. Call it what you want, for Sharks fans it means that the hope of bringing a Stanley Cup to San Jose stays alive. For Sharks players it means a trip back to Texas as the playoffs continue for at least one more game.
“We’re not ready to go home,” said alternate captain Joe Thornton
. “We’re a desperate hockey team. We stuck with it. We played hard. Good things happen when you go to the net and you play hard.”
And good things did happen as the Sharks rallied from a two-goal deficit on Friday night to take Game 5 at HP Pavilion with a 3-2 victory and send the series back to Dallas where they will attempt to even the series at three games a piece.
But it was an uninspired effort and unlucky bounces that had Sharks fans uneasy through the first two periods. Until Friday night, for most of the series, it had been the Sharks who would play strong early in the game only to let momentum and the lead slip away late in the game. That wasn’t the case tonight.
“You’ve got to work hard to get that first goal. Once we got that, the crowd just got into it and really boosted our spirits,” said Thornton. “The crowd really kept us in the game. Just a great finish. Usually the first ten minutes we dominate the game. Tonight we didn’t do that. But we’ll get back to that. We’ll play harder next game,”
Instead, the Sharks played their best hockey of the series late in the game. Relentless energy in the third period and in the overtime led to dominant play in the Sharks offensive zone and had the Stars back on their heels.
“I thought we skated great in the third period,” added Thornton. “We backed them off and got the chances that we got because we skated so well. Heck of a third period and even better in overtime. Just fantastic. A great character win. We dug down and we really saw the Sharks character in that period there. We played desperate and that’s what happens when you play desperate. Good things happen. We never felt like we were out of the game.”
But the series is far from over and Sharks players know that they have a lot of work in front of them if they hope to advance to the next round against the Detroit Wings who wrapped up their series against the Colorado on Thursday night by beating the Avalanche 8-2 and sweeping the series.
“We’ve still got to win. That’s the bottom line. We’ve still got to win. We’re a desperate team. They’re a desperate team. We’ll go into their building and their fans will be going crazy. But we believe in here. We truly think that we have a great group of guys. We’ll be ready,” said Thornton.
“We’ve been confident all along in the series. The series keeps evolving and were just going to have to keep pushing the pressure up,” added Campbell.
Game 6 between Dallas and San Jose will be Sunday at 6 p.m. on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.