So, what do you think of the shootout, Sharks fans?
My first taste of it was fun, exciting, thrilling, dramatic and more.My first thought was that this was going to be a great component of the "new" NHL for Sharks fans, whether the team wins or loses in the shootout itself.
On Saturday night, it was almost as if we were transported back to Tombstone, Arizona, and the days of the O.K. Corral.Instead of the Earps vs. the Clantons, 17,496 screaming fans got the Wilsons vs. the Sutters, or the Sharks vs. the Flames.It all began with a series of confrontations and serious incidents which ratcheted up the tension as the evening went on.
There were battles in the corners, big hits (call them "pistol whips") by Scott Thornton and Patrick Marleau, collisions galore, and some hard skating, too.Early in the evening, Tony Amonte challenged Nolan Schaefer to a penalty shot duel, but was rebuffed by the irrepressible Schaefer.There was even a bullfight featuring Steve Montador providing the coup de grace in the first period!
Oh, wait, sorry about that.We don't want to mix bullfighting metaphors with our symbolic trip to Tombstone.Let's get back to the O.K. Corral.
Needless to say, the Sharks were the more tired team because of their extended travel and the back-to-back schedule, and the Flames weren't liking the treatment, so in the early going, Montador and Jarome Iginla put San Jose into a 2-0 deficit.
It looked bad for the hometown Sharks, and a lot of people were thinking about the first game back blues, but then, the talk turned back toward revenge.Marleau flicked his wrists from about 60 feet out, and Jonathan Cheechoo knocked the puck past Miikka Kiprusoff to get the Sharks on the board with to play in regulation time.Then, with Schaefer pulled for an extra attacker, Brad Stuart made like Sheriff Ricochet Rabbit, with a shot that went "ping-ping-ping" and got past Kiprusoff with only 23 seconds to play.
OK, we mixed in a 1960's Hanna Barbera cartoon character into our little tale, but at least, Ricochet and his partner Droop-along were characters set in the Old West.
But now, we came to overtime, and the Sharks found an extra bit of energy in the crowd, and trans-mutated that into their own effort.Outshooting Calgary, 4-0, in the extra session, San Jose was merely queuing up for the main event:the shootout at the O.K. Corral.
Steve Reinprecht went after Schaefer, and was stopped.Cheechoo had a chance at Kiprusoff, but was turned aside.Then, Iginla slammed one home, and the Flames led, 1-0.After Patrick Marleau fired one wide, Amonte got a rematch with Schaefer.It was the pivotal point of the shootout, because if Amonte scored, the game was over.
But Amonte couldn't slip it past the 25-year-old Providence college graduate, who twisted his body into a pretzel and covered the open space low to his glove side, at the last minute.His right pad suddenly fired out to the right, and the shot by Amonte was kicked away, to the screams of delight from the crowd.
Then, pressure point two occurred.Marco Sturm had to score, or it was over.He didn't miss with his laser-like accuracy.It was 1-1 in the shootout, and all was not over at the O.K. Corral.
Chuck Kobasew went next for Calgary, and he was stopped again by Schaefer, who had lots of experience in the shootout with Cleveland over the last couple of years.
Then, the moment transfixed in time, the "Billy Clanton moment," if you will:Nils Ekman skated down the ice and emerged out of Ron Wilson's mini-doghouse with the winning tally in the first shootout in Sharks history.
The first Sharks shootout took place on October 29, 2005, at HP Pavilion at San Jose.Eight shots were fired, and the action took about two minutes.
Interestingly enough, the original gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place the very same week - but on October 26, 1881, in lot 2, block 17, of Tombstone, Arizona.Thirty-two shots with real bullets were fired, with the action taking approximately 23 seconds.
In both cases, history was made.For the Sharks, it was a successful first test of the shootout concept, and for the fans, it capped an exciting evening with a fever pitched level of intensity that should be welcome to all who follow the game.
Stay tuned for test two of the shootout, which will come when the Sharks lose their first one.But don't worry - win or lose, it will be exciting for the fans, and great for exposure of the sport.I don't think that the networks will avoid showing highlights of these shootouts, do you?
I'm Dan Rusanowsky, for Seagate Technology's In the Crease.