Famous American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”
In San Jose’s 6-5 overtime win in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series against Colorado, the Sharks had some bad luck. However, thanks to hard work and determination, the cause and effect overcame some bad breaks.
Like Colorado’s first goal just 70 seconds into the game when Rob Blake’s clearing attempt in front of the net went off Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s face and past Evgeni Nabokov.
“The game starts and we have a bad bounce again,” said Nabokov, who was referring to Chris Stewart’s last-minute, game-winning goal off Blake’s skate in Game One. “I’m sure a lot of people were going, ‘There we go again.’”
“It just seemed that everything was going wrong that could go wrong,” said Devin Setoguchi, who scored the winning goal at 5:22 of overtime.
But in Game Two, San Jose kept fighting. They outshot the Avalanche, 19-6, in those first 20 minutes. The Sharks were also paced by Scott Nichol, who was signed as a free agent to bring grit and hustle. He delivered in those first 20 minutes. In just nearly four-and-a-half minutes of ice time, Nichol attempted five shots on goal (three were blocked) and had three hits. He also scored a goal late in the second period to tie the game.
“It’s right in here,” said Nichol, who was pointing to his chest. “It’s called your heart. You can do all of the Xs and Os, but you have to go out there and play with emotion. I think we did that and kept rolling.”
“We managed to overcome a lot of bad bounces tonight,” said Manny Malhotra, who scored San Jose’s first goal at 19:18 of the first period. “We came back from five deficits. It speaks a lot to resiliency. We stuck to our game plan. We didn’t get down on ourselves. We were constantly being positive in the locker room and on the bench.”
“We had to overcome a lot. You’re not going to get all of the goals. You’re not going to get all of the bounces,” said Joe Pavelski, who sent the game into overtime with a tying goal at 19:28 of the third period. “We had to stay positive and stay with the work ethic that we had.”
San Jose also knew that a loss would put them down two games to none in the series and with the series shifting to Colorado on Sunday, winning Game Two was very important.
“You never want to go down 0-2,” Setoguchi said. “Everyone came to play tonight. Every player on the ice played hard and wore their hearts on their sleeves.”
Staying positive was part of the game plan. But another part was the physical aspect: speed and aggressiveness.
In his postgame presser, Coach Todd McLellan remembered talking about how the Sharks didn’t penetrate Colorado’s defensive zone consistently following Game One. But after Game Two, McLellan mentioned “will,” “work ethic” and “grind” as qualities the Sharks showed on the ice.
“Everybody showed up to play tonight,” McLellan said. “We had a little extra in the tank that we didn’t have the other day. And we overcame. It was nice to see our guys do it.”
McLellan also said that overcoming deficits and battling a tough opponent will be a constant throughout this series. “It’s not going to change,” he said. “We’re going to have to overcome from this day forward.”
And McLellan wants to see that effort on a consistent basis. “What I’d like to think is that we bring that passion and energy to Denver, apply it and see where we end up.”
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about character. The games are a test of everyone’s will. And while there may be some critics who will continue to question San Jose’s drive and determination, some of them should’ve been silenced after Game Two.
“It was a great win. It was a great learning experience,” Nichol said. “We easily could’ve said, ‘Oh why me?’ We didn’t. We kept driving forward. We were like, ‘Okay, let’s go.’ These are things that are going to happen in the playoffs. We overcame them and just kept building on it.”
“We always talk about putting a complete game together,” Malhotra said. “We’re not going to play 45 minutes and expect to win it.”
“It was fun to play. You play 82 games for a game like this tonight,” Nichol said. “It was a great win for everybody.”
SHARKS HEAD COACH TODD MCLELLAN
“I thought it was real evident that everyone came out to play tonight. We had a little extra in the tank that we didn’t have the other night. We overcame. It is not going to change in Game 3 or Game 4, we are going to have to overcome. ”
“This was not your typical playoff game by any means, to see that many goals. Where we go from here, I don’t know. What I would like to think is that we bring that passion and that energy to Denver and we apply it and see where we end up. ”
On Nabby’s overtime saves….
“I thought our guys did a very good job of playing through the early goals against and then in overtime he made some great saves. It is hard for Nabby because we have four goals against on maybe only 10 or 12 shots against. The first one goes off of someone’s shoulder or face, the second one goes off the referee to the goalie for a breakaway goal, the third one is borderline offside and four and five probably should have been stopped. It is a hard game for him to play in, but he did a real admirable job in overtime of sticking with it when we needed him.
COLORADO HEAD COACH JOE SACCO
“San Jose came out and played hard. They were a desperate team. They had a lot of shots on goal. I thought they had a lot of shots on their first four power plays.”
“We still had the one goal lead numerous times. Tough break… It was a tough game.”
“They shot the puck more. They put more shots on net. It must have been part of their game plan.”
“It’s tough to swallow right now. We had the lead going into the final minute and then they come back and tied it up. But I think we can take a lot of positives away from the first two games.”