SAN JOSE -- The Sharks were 20 minutes away from summer vacation. Their 16th season was about to end like the other 15 have: without a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
So there they were, trailing the Dallas Stars 2-0 and on the brink of elimination in Game 5. They seemed destined to get expelled for the third straight year in the Western Conference's semifinal round.
Even the video boards above center ice had moved on to HP Pavilion's next great events, advertising a Neil Diamond concert in September.
But wait, the Sharks aren't finished. They rallied in dramatic fashion for a 3-2 overtime win Friday night, thus forcing Game 6 Sunday in Dallas. The Sharks still trail 3-2 in the series, but if they win Game 6, they're back home for Game 7 on Tuesday.
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"We survived and the second half of the third period we really took it to them," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "That's how we wanted to play overtime, not worry about making a mistake."
They're still alive thanks to Joe Pavelski's game-winning blast 65 seconds into the extra period. Pavelski acted like he was going to fire off a shot from one faceoff circle, but he instead drifted over to the other and ripped a shot over the left shoulder of Stars goalie Marty Turco.
The Sharks also are still alive thanks to a terrific glove save by goaltender Evgeni Nabakov with just over a minute remaining in regulation.
And they're alive thanks to the third-period goals by Milan Michalek and Brian Campbell that erased the aforementioned 2-0 deficit.
And they're still alive thanks to some hard hits by Craig Rivet and Jeremy Roenick in the waning -- and wonderful -- minutes of regulation.
And they're alive thanks to one heck of a wake-up call in the third period, the time zone the Sharks had fallen asleep in during the earlier three games of this series.
Yep, what a wonderful life it seemed for the sellout crowd once Pavelski found the net for the game-winner. The goal-scoring horn sounded for 10 loud seconds. The Sharks' dogpile of Pavelski in the corner lasted even longer. And the Stars' trip to the locker room must have felt even longer.
About 15 minutes later, as HP Pavilion emptied, one fan in a Torrie Mitchell jersey hung around yelling "33 YEARS!" That's how long it's been since a team has overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series, a feat pulled off by the New York Islanders. And the last time a team rallied like that before the Islanders? Yep, 33 years, by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Even NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wondered aloud before the game as to whether the Sharks could follow that 33-year pattern.
"It'll be interesting to see if history repeats itself," Bettman said.
Well, history has repeated itself in one way: Bettman is a good luck charm for the Sharks.
They don't lose when Lord Gary dives into the Shark Tank.
In 2007, he showed up, and the Sharks won Game 4 of a first-round series against Nashville. In 2006, he showed, the Sharks again won, again in Game 4 of a first-round matchup with Nashville. In 2004 (the Sharks skipped the 2005 postseason party), Lord Gary came to San Jose, and the Sharks entertained him with a Game 2, first-round win over St. Louis.
OK, that's as far back as our FBI files on Bettman's whereabouts take us. But surely you sense the trend.
Why couldn't Bettman have been there for the Sharks in their first two games at home, when they lost and fell into an ugly 2-0 series hole.
"Not many teams bounce back from a kick to the groin like that," Wilson said.
Neil Diamond can wait. We've still got playoff hockey to watch.