In the beginning it was Pavelski though, as it was in the end. “Little Joe” started the night off right in the first minute by stuffing in a wraparound from behind Craig Anderson. As important as the goal was, Pavelski played big on the scenario by outbattling his defender for the puck. In a battle of wills, Pavelski was the victor. It was that way for the entire series as Pavelski scored the tying goal late in Game 2 and notched two game-winners.
“We wanted a good start,” said Pavelski. “We said let’s make a push of our own and we were fortunate in the battle behind the net.”
Then with the game tied at two in the third, Pavelski scored again, providing the game-winner. He had scored key goals all series and with Colorado threatening to force a Game 7, Pavelski stepped up again. The two goals and three points were a career high for the Plover, Wisconsin product.
“I think Joe Pavelski
’s line deserves first star in the series,” said Boyle. “Pavelski gets the game-winner and that’s fitting because that line has been our line this series.”
The Sharks bench boss was please with the group’s play.
“Pavs has talent,” said McLellan. “You can’t do what he did in the series and not have talent. He has the ability to do it and he’s got a really good drive and a will. He wants to be up to bat with two out in the bottom of the ninth.”
Pavelski and Ryane Clowe
both finished with eight points in the series to lead the Sharks and Devin Setoguchi was right behind them.
“Pucks were going in and on a few opportunities we made the shots,” said Pavelski. “Clowe and Seto worked so hard this first series and can be an example for what still needs to come. It only gets harder from here.”
McLellan has stretched overcoming any and all obstacles before the series even began. The club was tested with unfortunate bounces throughout the series and then one final time in Game 6 when they found themselves trailing by one goal in the final stanza. There were no thoughts of relying on a Game 7.
“They went ahead 2-1, but there was no quit though,” said Pavelski. “We said we want this one. We said we would get a couple of chances and let’s bury them if we get the opportunity and we ended up winning. We wanted it and we didn’t want to play Game 7.”
“We certainly faced a lot of adversity,” said Boyle. “We saw a lot of overtime games and close games and the guys came though.”
“The ability to come back in the third mirrors what’s happened the whole series,” said McLellan. “We picked that overcome theme at the beginning of the series. It was a hard series for us to play in. Colorado did a tremendous job in competing and pushed us to the limit.”
ALMOST AS IMPORTANT
Winning and moving on is the most important part of the playoffs, but it cannot be overlooked that the Sharks played exactly how they wanted to for just about every period of the six contests.
“The most importing thing for us, it was the most consistent series in a long time,” said Nabokov. “We played the same way over and over and over. Maybe we had a little bit of a slip, but we jumped back again. That is very important to play that type of game.”
“The general type of game we played is the way we have to have a chance to be successful,” said McLellan. “I’m proud of the way the guys played.”
When an odd, quirky goal left Boyle feeling personally responsible for the only loss in Denver, the Olympic defender said he would not feel vindicated until the series was won.
“It’s officially behind me,” said Boyle. “We showed some heart and we worked and game back. I certainly grew from that. Now it’s gone and not even in the rearview mirror. I’m sure it will be on some highlight reels for years to come, but it’s just a growing and learning experience.”
Boyle played a major role in putting rallying the troops by potting a goal in each of the two contests that followed at Pepsi Center, including a pinpoint shot that tied Game 6 in the third just after Colorado had taken the lead.
“It was great shot by him,” said Pavelski.
“I’ve been in the league long enough, and you’re going to have your ups and downs in a playoff series,” said Boyle. “You’re going to fall behind in a game or in a series and you can’t quit.”
“He came out that next game and established himself and tonight he did it again,” said Pavelski.
“We have a lot of leaders in this room and Dan is one of them,” said Nabokov. “He overcame it and showed why he is a great player.”
Boyle’s offense generates the highlights, but Boyle’s defense played a larger role than most give him credit for.
“I thought Danny got better as the game went on and you need your best players to do that,” said McLellan. “That helps everyone else settle down. He did a lot of good things below their goal line. He and the other five defensemen did some really good work.”
The final score of 5-2 didn’t reflect it because of two empty net goals, but the Avalanche may have had their best performance of the series.
“We realized their season was on the line and they were going to come out and make a big push,” said Pavelski. “We wanted it and didn’t want to play Game 7 the way Anderson was going. It was an important night for us.”
The Sharks defense, anchored by Nabokov, was as strong as they had been all series.
“We didn’t let them set up too many times in the zone and when they had their shots, the defense did a good job of clearing the rebound or blocking the shots,” said Nabokov.
The Sharks became the first team in the Western Conference and the second in the NHL to advance to the second round.
Who San Jose plays next will depend on how other series play out, but it will definitely come from Los Angeles, Detroit, Phoenix or Nashville.
The Sharks won’t celebrate too long or hard about round one.
“(We’ll) enjoy it for a little bit, but most of us in here have only been to the second round,” said Pavelski.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Nabokov. “We will enjoy it for a couple of days and back to work. The next opponent isn’t going to be easy.”
San Jose will now simply watch the playoffs like everyone else, with a little practice mixed in (and maybe a day off), and see how things play out.
“I think maybe we earned an extra day off instead of playing that Game 7,” said Pavelski.
“It was certainly nice to win tonight and not go back to Game 7,” said Boyle. “It was a good team win.”
“They played hard. It wasn’t easy,” said Nabokov. “They may have gotten some bounces, but they worked hard for the bounces. There was some frustration some times, but I think Pavs line did an incredible job by putting us on the board all the time and making key goals at key times.”