Here’s what happened in the NHL last night (check out replays of every playoff game on ESPN+) and what to watch for tonight, in today’s edition of ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily:
There were times when this felt like a coronation for the San Jose Sharks, like when Joe Pavelski — playing in his first game since his horrific Game 7 head injury in the previous round — scored a goal and assisted on Tomas Hertl‘s tally to give San Jose a 2-0 lead just 11:35 into the game. There were times when, in a playoff full of upsets, it appeared Colorado was going to pull another one, like when Mikko Rantanen scored with seven seconds left in the first, or when Tyson Jost scored 51 seconds into the third to cut the lead to 3-2.
But in the end, there were too many times when the breaks went San Jose’s way, like the overturned goal on an offside coach’s challenge in the second period, or Martin Jones‘s stellar play late in the game in making 27 saves for the win. The Sharks move on to face the St. Louis Blues. The Avalanche see a very impressive season come to an end.
1. Joe Pavelski, C, San Jose Sharks. The captain returned from concussion-like symptoms to play his first game of the series, and his impact was immediate: His deflection of a Brent Burns shot at 5:57 of the first opened the scoring, and he assisted on Hertl’s goal at 11:35. He skated 19:49 for the game, although he didn’t take a faceoff, sparking speculation that he might still have some injury he’s dealing with. At one point, the camera put Pavelski on the Jumbotron and he responded with a fist pump, to the roar of the crowd. It was that kind of night.
Joe Pavelski sends a pass in front for Tomas Hertl, who buries the one-timer to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead over the Avalanche in the first period.
2. Martin Jones, G, San Jose Sharks. Jones made 27 saves and gave up two goals, appearing to fight the puck a bit during the game. But he was there when it counted, making 14 saves in the third period to preserve the 3-2 lead and win his second Game 7 of the playoffs.
3. Samuel Girard, D, Colorado Avalanche. The young defenseman was one of the strongest players for the Avs in Game 7, with a plus-9 in Corsi, an expected goals percentage of 83.42 to lead the team and the primary assist on Rantanen’s goal. Just a reminder that, despite the loss, he future is bright for the Avalanche.
The Avalanche thought they tied Game 7 in the second period but the goal was wiped off the board because “the Situation Room determined that Gabriel Landeskog did not legally tag up at the blue line prior to the puck entering the offensive zone. The decision was made in accordance to Rule 83.3 (i), ‘All players of the offending team clear the zone at the same instant (skate contact with the blue line) permitting the attacking players to re-enter the attacking zone…'”
In other words, the Sharks won their coach’s challenge.
Landeskog, to his credit, took the blame: “It’s a clumsy mistake, you know? ‘Get off the ice.’ If I could have done something different on that play, I would have jumped the boards a lot quicker,” he said.
Less “dud” than “bummer” of the night. MacKinnon appeared to hurt his shoulder in the first period of Game 7, limiting him to just five shifts in the first period. MacKinnon said the injury will have to be rehabbed, and that “they shot me up with something, and I came back.” Bednar praised his star for playing through the pain, saying, “He would have had to have been stretchered out of the building to not come back [in that game].”
The “Bunch of Jerks” take on the Bruins in the Eastern Conference final, trying to pull another upset in their postseason push. To do so, they’re going to have to find a way to crack the wall called Tuukka Rask, who had a a 1.71 goals-against average and .948 save percentage in the Bruins’ six-game series win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The San Francisco 49ers‘ offensive line showed up to Game 7 and gave each other a beer bath.
“We felt with the way the East is shaking out, and the West as well, we could have won the Cup this year. It truly felt like we could have won everything. It was up for grabs. It sucks.” — Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche