Sharks captain Joe Pavelski was back in action Wednesday night for Game 7 of San Jose’s Western Conference semi-final series against the visiting Colorado Avalanche, and he scored the game’s first goal.
He then added the primary assist on the second goal, giving the Sharks a 2-0 lead less than 12 minutes into the game. San Jose went on to win 3-2, advancing to the Western Conference finals. “It’s been incredible (to return to the lineup in Game 7),” Pavelski said. “To come out and score early... I felt a lot of emotion there for sure. Scored a few like those over the years. Got back and there were all smiles on the bench. It was Game 7, a big game.”
Pavelski, who hadn’t played since sustaining an apparent head injury in Game 7 of San Jose’s first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights, started Wednesday. At 5:57 of the first period, he tipped in a point shot from Brent Burns for his third goal of the postseason.
Just over five minutes later, Pavelski dished from behind the net to Tomas Hertl, who buried a one-timer to make it 2-0 at 11:35. Pavelski finished with 19:49 of ice time, less than a minute off his average this postseason (20:41) and above his regular-season average (19:03). He played throughout the final minutes, as the Sharks weathered a storm of Avalanche pressure with an extra attacker on the ice and their goaltender pulled.
“(The Avalanche) played a great game against us, scoring in the first minute of the third period to keep the pressure on,” Pavelski said. The Sharks had viewed Pavelski’s status as uncertain earlier in the day, and they waited to see how he did in warmups to determine if he would play.
Coach Peter DeBoer said there was an awareness that Pavelski participating in warmups would pump up the crowd inside the SAP Center. Pavelski scored a team-high 38 goals and added 26 assists in the regular season.
He now has three goals and three assists in eight games this postseason. He was injured when his head hit the ice after a cross check by Vegas forward Cody Eakin on April 23. Eakin was assessed a major penalty for cross-checking, and the Sharks scored four times on the ensuing power play en route to a 5-4 overtime win. The NHL subsequently apologised for the call, ruling that Eakin shouldn’t have been assessed a five-minute major. Pavelski also agreed that it shouldn’t have been a major penalty. Pavelski got on the ice for the first time since the injury on Monday, said he is closer to returning. “It still really is day-to-day, I think, and go from there,” Pavelski said Monday. “I wish we had a set-in-stone answer.’Go here, do this and be ready.’ We’re just kind of taking everything into play.”
Bruins, Hurricanes clash in Eastern finals
The Boston Bruins, riding a three-game winning streak and boosted by the resurgence of goaltender Tuukka Rask, appear to have hit their stride heading into the Eastern Conference finals. Their opponent seems more than equipped to match that momentum. The Carolina Hurricanes carry a season-high six-game winning streak into Game 1 in Boston last night.
The Hurricanes rallied to win the last two games of their first-round series against the defending champion Washington Capitals before dominating the New York Islanders in a four-game sweep in the second round. Carolina has reached the conference finals in each of its past four playoff trips, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final twice.
“It is a whole different animal, as you can see, the nhl playoffs,” Hurricanes captain Justin Williams told reporters recently. “It’s just go, go, go, and who’s playing best right now, and obviously both teams are playing well to be here.” The Bruins came back from a 2-1 series deficit against the Columbus Blue Jackets on their way to advancing to a third conference final this decade.
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