The month for looking back at San Jose Sharks history continues, and this time, it’s a chance for us to check in on some of the best moments in team history. We covered the most gut-wrenching moments earlier. And the most fun players to watch. Now a time to look at some brilliant, exciting and special moments.
I went through all sorts of history and narrowing it down to five was a challenge. I’ll start by mentioning some of the moments that didn’t make the list of five.
With the Sharks trailing in the playoff series 1-0 in 2010’s first round, they battled Colorado in Game 2. The teams would alternate goals. Each time the Avs would score a go-ahead goal, the Sharks would score the equalizer. Colorado scored to go up 5-4 early in the final period. But the Sharks found a way. With a half-minute to go and skating with the extra man, Joe Pavelski tied it up at 5-5. A Devin Setoguchi goal won it in OT, 6-5. Instead of going down 2-0 in the series, the Sharks evened it up and would go on to win the series.
There were a few more nerve-wracking games in the Shark Tank than Game 7 against the Red Wings in 2011 during the second round. The Sharks had gotten out to a 3-0 series lead, but lost the next three games. All the games were close, only an empty-net goal in Game 6 (which should never have been allowed, as Detroit had too many men on the ice … but I digress) kept every game in the series from being a one-goal game. It was a tremendous series. The Sharks held a 2-0 lead after one period, then were out shot by the Wings 29-13 over the final two periods. The Sharks survived that night with a gritty, intense 3-2 win.
It’s not typical that a top moment happens not on the ice, but well above the ice. The Sharks team mascot, SJ Sharkie, got tangled while attempting to rappel down to ice level prior to the start of the game in March 1998, leaving him hanging. Sure, it wasn’t fun for Sharkie, but if you want to become a legendary mascot, you need to find a way into the headlines.
If you are looking for tears of joy, Troy Grosenick provided some of those this past season with his brilliant NHL debut in 2014, a shutout against Carolina in front of his family.
Another great moment took place at the 1997 All-Star Game in San Jose. The Sharks had to wait two extra years to host the game, the originally scheduled game was cancelled due to a lockout. Sometimes, the wait is worth it. The highlight? Captain Owen Nolan’s hat trick on a ‘called shot.’
There are some highlight-reel goals, as well. The two most notable were the ones by Tomas Hertl and Jonathan Cheechoo. In Hertl’s case, he sent the hockey world abuzz in just his third NHL game, not only putting up one of the top highlights of the entire season, but pocketing four goals and giving Martin Biron, the Rangers goalie mopping up that night, a good reason to retire. Cheechoo’s between the legs goal against Colorado in the postseason was a special moment, as well. I recall watching the slow-motion video replay in the Shark Tank and momentarily, the cheering changed tone as the fans gasped at once, realizing just how spectacular that goal was.
Some of the great moments below are ones the fans would expect. A milestone win. A penalty kill for the ages. Several of these moments have a bittersweet quality to them if you include (borrowing from Paul Harvey) the rest of the story. I’ll skip the rest of the story here and recognize the moments for what they were, not what followed. Here are the five greatest moments in Sharks history:
1995 Playoffs: Game 7 versus Calgary in Double OT
How many times have the Sharks won a series in overtime in a Game 7? Once. It came in the opening round after the lockout-shortened season in 1995. The Sharks were helped into the playoffs by a system that allowed 8 of the 12 Western teams to enter the postseason. Ray Whitney’s goal in the second overtime period ended the Sharks’ opening-round series and the Flames season. Randy Hahn’s classic call signaled Detroit as the next opponent: “There will be octopus on Sunday”. It was the second consecutive season that an underdog Sharks team had beaten a prohibitive favorite in an opening-round series. In the series, the Sharks gave up an average of 5.0 goals per game and scored 11 fewer goals in regulation. Remarkably, they still came out on top.
2011 Playoffs: The Comeback versus LA Kings
In 2011, the Sharks and Kings played an intense and memorable series. The most memorable game was the Sharks’ remarkable comeback in Game 3. Down 4-0 early in the second period, the Sharks would go white-hot. They outscored the Kings 5-1 in a 17-minute stretch to take what looked like a Kings cakewalk and turn it into a nail-biter. Ryane Clowe scored twice to tighten the game up. It was Joe Pavelski scoring the tying goal. A tense third period was scoreless. In OT, it would be Setoguchi nailing the game winner. Game 6 would also go to overtime, with Joe Thornton providing the winning goal and famously sliding on the ice to celebrate.
2006 Playoffs: Penalty Kill versus Edmonton
The Sharks would, in Game 2 of their 2006 playoffs series versus the Oilers, win by a score of 2-1. The highlight of that win was a tense 101 seconds where the Oilers had a five-on-three advantage. Past the midpoint of the second period, the Sharks held a 1-0 lead before getting called for back-to-back penalties. If the degree of difficulty wasn’t severe enough, two Sharks defenders would have their sticks broken in the course of the PK. With no stoppage in play and the puck inside the Sharks zone the entire time, the Sharks defenders – Kyle McLaren, Scott Hannan and Mark Smith – had to hang tough; so did goalie Vesa Toskala. On the ice for Edmonton were two of the more villainous figures in Sharks history, Chris Pronger and Jarrett Stoll. In the final moments of the five-on-three, Scott Hannan was able to block a shot, then dive to the ice to push the puck out of the zone with his hand late to finish off the remarkable kill.
1994 Playoffs: Game 7 versus Detroit
The Sharks finished the 1992-93 season with 11 wins. In the fall of 1993, they moved into their new home, immediately dubbed the Shark Tank. Hockey was a novelty in the area, but Shark fans showed up in big numbers. The 1993-94 team was much improved, in large part to the added presence of Russian imports Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov. On a line with Johan Garpenlov, the Sharks top line made life interesting and the Sharks managed their way into the last playoff spot (or playovs as they were known locally). No one expected much against the top-seeded Red Wings, but the Sharks battled their way to Game 7. Chants of Ir-be for Sharks goalie Arturs Irbe would ring loudly inside the Tank all series long. It was a phenomenon in the making. With under seven minutes left and the game tied in Detroit, Jamie Baker scored what would soon be the series-winning goal. It is still considered by many the biggest goal in Sharks history. It may be overstating it to say it was this game that put hockey on the map in San Jose. But not by much.
March 2014: A Wish Fulfilled
The game San Jose played against the Florida Panthers in the Shark Tank in March 2014 was mostly forgettable. What happened prior to the game was not. It was Sam Tageson’s day as a San Jose Shark. The Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Sharks made a dream come true for the teenager with a dangerous heart condition. Smile to your face, water to your eyes. Some things are bigger than the game.