May 12, 2011RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKSVIDEO
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SAN JOSE -- The loudest roar of the night at Le Pavillon du HP was reserved for Patrick Marleaus goal with 7:47 to play.Yeah. That Patrick Marleau.His game-winning, series-clinching, death-robbing, reputation-saving and all-around memorable goal in San Joses 3-2 victory over Detroit in Game 7 of this Western Conference semifinal will be the new standard for artery-searing fun on ice.After all, Marleau was the metaphor for this series, the most relentlessly available blame repository for all San Joses ills in a series that took three games too long for them, and delayed their entry into the conference final against the other team from the Playoff Bizarro World, the Vancouver Canucks.You could sort of see it coming, defenseman Dan Boyle said after the game and series that took three years off each combatants lives. With all the grief hes taken, and the way this game is, honestly, I figured it would end this way.
RECAP: Sharks survive, clip Red Wings in Game 7
Yes, with Marleau, The Goat For All Scapes, ending a great series with a goal that changed Bay Area hockey history. For 17 days, anyway.I was really happy for him, Boyle said, repeating the sentiment of all the Sharks in a very relieved dressing room. Hed been keeping to himself pretty much, just getting ready for the moment, I guess.And it came, the follow to an eight-foot wrist shot from Devin Setoguchi that sought out Marleau, who let instinct do the talking into an open net to Detroit goalie Jimmy Howards left.Pattys been through an awful lot, head coach Todd McLellan said. Patty and Jumbo (Joe Thornton) have been lightning rods around here for a long time, but when you see the number of minutes we played him, the number of shifts he gets, its clear we need him a great deal.And now, with Vancouver the new 50-foot hurdle, the Sharks will need him, and all his mates, even more.But for the moment, the rear-view mirror was where the Sharks were actually looking, because they had endured a truly weird -- yes, weird, even for them -- fortnight and a nearly psychotic final day with the Red Wings.First, Ryane Clowe, who missed Game 6 with what most people believe to be a concussion, was green-lighted to play, and played well.Second, the Sharks started quickly, but very nearly relived the nightmares of Game 5 -- because thats what they do, and because thats who they are.McLellan likes to talk about lessons learned, and the Sharks finally deduced that all that screaming about their lousy first periods might have had some merit, which is why they played their best period of the series right away. San Jose scored twice in the first to re-win their customers love . . . at least until the next time they do something obnoxious. In doing so, they showed what they are when they are at their best, which they hadnt been for a good week.The first score, at 12:20 came after Jonathan Ericsson went off for a hook on Torrey Mitchell. Boyle, at the right point, slid a pass along the wall to Thornton, who spotted Setoguchi with space and time to Howards right, and beat him with a wicked one-timer at 12:20. It also broke an 0-for-10 power play streak by the Sharks, for those of you who are statistically invigorated.After two excellent penalty kills, on the rambunctious Clowe for roughing Howard and Marc-Edouard Vlasic for tripping Darren Helm, the Sharks put in what looked to be the dagger. Henrik Zetterberg brought the puck out from behind the Detroit net but put it right onto Coutures stick at the right dot. Couture promised to thank Zetterberg later, but in the half-second he had available to him, he beat Howard over his left shoulder to make it 2-0.Just like Game 5.If that were enough, the Sharks would have been home free. As it was, Detroit doesnt just leave when it looks like it should, and proved it at 13:10 when Zetterberg beat Niemi with a nifty backhand to finish a 3-on-2 break. The Sharks held on to the rest of the period by the tape of their sticks, but Detroit had shifted the initiative so much that they outshot San Jose 17-6 in the period, won 16 of the 25 draws and in general worried Niemi as much as the Sharks had worried Howard in the first. The outcome would hinge on what came after, because two lopsided periods had made a nearly even game.Just like Game 5.Thats the lesson we have to learn from this game, Boyle said. We lost our composure and we started running around, and they did what they do when you start running around.But Marleau, who had been livelier than he had been in any other game, was presented with his cant-miss-this--one goal with the work of Thornton at the other end and Setoguchis intrepid work at the goal front. The Sharks regained their two-goal lead.Also like Game 5. Only unlike Game 5, the Wings had only seven minutes and change, not 19 and change, to steal the game, and though Pavel Datsyuk did pull them back to within one with a backhand that goalie Antti Niemi could not shoulder out 1:46 later, and though the Sharks had to kill one final penalty, from Mitchell for slashing Ruslan Salei, they did the one thing they hadnt done for nearly a week.They survived.Now they face another team that spun gold into straw and back into gold in Vancouver. A different team, with different modus operandi, the deepest and best talent coupled with the crushing weight of a citys demanding and unfulfilled expectations.The breathing, in short, will be difficult. Ask Todd McLellan.Are you kidding? he said when asked how he felt. Look at me.He looked, well, exhausted. And hell be exhausted awhile longer. Patrick Marleau can do that to you -- both ways.Ray Ratto is a columnist with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.