In Game 7s, there’s often a decisive moment that goes down as one of the most thrilling moments in the winning team’s history.
For the Sharks, this has often taken the form of unlikely goals sealing improbable upsets against superior foes in seasons San Jose was never given much of a chance of advancing.
Within these top Game 7 moments in franchise history, deciding which of them is the best of the best becomes difficult.
With all due respect to Jeremy Roenick’s two-goal performance against the Calgary Flames in 2008 and Antti Niemi shutting the door on the Detroit Red Wings in 2011, these are our top three Game 7 moments in Sharks history.
1994: Jamie Baker scores late to stun Red Wings
In addition to a healthy dose of drama, the Sharks Game 7 victory in Detroit in 1994 might invoke the ultimate feelings of nostalgia.
The highlight of that win, clinching the Sharks first-ever series win in franchise history, was an unlikely goal by Jamie Baker off a Chris Osgood misplay that broke a 2-2 tie in the dying moments of the third period.
With this moment, it’s not only the drama of the event itself. It’s also how this goal is forever symbolic with how the Sharks franchise put itself on the hockey map, improbably rising from the depths of the NHL to improve by 58 points in 1993-94, still the largest single-season turnaround in league history.
The unlikeliness of the moment is also augmented by the size of the upset.
A year after the Sharks unexpectedly made the playoffs and stunned Detroit in the first round, they squeaked into the playoffs again, as the No. 7 seed, in 1995. This earned San Jose a tough matchup with Pacific Division champion Calgary Flames, who were led by Joe Nieuwendyk, Theo Fleury and Phil Housley.
Despite shocking Calgary with two straight wins at the Saddledome to start the series, the Flames roared back to win Games 3, 4 and 5 by a combined score of 20-6. A Sharks victory in Game 6 moved the series back to Calgary for a climatic seventh game that featured a lot of goals early, and great goaltending from Arturs Irbe and Trevor Kidd late.
This came to a head in the second overtime, when the Sharks completed their second miracle comeback in as many years when Ray Whitney broke a 4-4 tie by redirecting a Sergei Makarov shot through Kidd’s legs to end the series.
To date, this is the only Sharks Game 7, win or lose, to have ended in overtime, and only one of three playoff OT wins in team history to have ended in the second overtime or later.
2000: St. Louis sings the Blues after Owen Nolan’s miracle shot
Unlike the 1994 and 1995 Game 7s, the pivotal moment of the Sharks’ Game 7 victory in St. Louis in 1999-00 wasn’t a decisive goal in the game’s final moments.
Similar to the ’94 and ’95 Game 7s, however, it included an underdog Sharks team eliminating a top seed on an unlikely sequence.
Finishing eighth in the Western Conference that year, San Jose was given little chance in the first round against the St Louis Blues, who won the Presidents’ Trophy behind an MVP season from Chris Pronger.
Unfortunately for the Blues, Owen Nolan played his best hockey as a Shark in this first-round series. Nolan scored six goals in seven games, including an impossible 90-foot slap shot that miraculously beat Blues goalie Roman Turek in the final minute of the first period.
Although Nolan’s goal was only in the first period and made the score 2-0, it was a crushing blow the Blues never recovered from. San Jose won 3-1 that night to become the first team in NHL history to twice win a series as the No. 8 seed, doing it in the first nine years of their existence.