WCQF Game 6: Joe Thornton’s slip-and-slide OT game winning goal celebration signals a berth in the second round

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

San Jose Sharks Joe Thornton celebrated overtime game winning goal against Los Angeles

Grizzled veterans often tell young rookies to act like you have been there before. Four Sharks scored their first career NHL goals this season (Andrew Desjardins, John McCarthy, Derek Joslin and Justin Braun) and nearly twice that many opposing rookies scored their first NHL goal against San Jose. Each time the rookie calmly skated back to the bench after nonchalanting the celebration, except in a few cases where they could not keep it in.

After a critical 5-minute major penalty kill in the third period and overtime, Joe Thornton sprung Devin Setoguchi into the offensive zone. Tying up Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, Thornton drove to the side of the net and also peeled Rob Scuderi off of Setoguchi. Setoguchi threaded a seeing eye pass to Patrick Marleau, and Thornton spun off of Mitchell to sweep the bouncing puck around goaltender Jonathan Quick. The Sharks earned a 4-3 OT win to knock Los Angeles out of the first round 4 games to 2. Thornton skated to center ice and slid on his back until he was mobbed by his teammates.

“I didn’t know what to do (with the celebration),” Thornton told TSN’s Ray Ferraro. “Usually I am on the other end, I like to pass the puck. The ice was pretty slick so I didn’t know what I was doing.” It was Joe Thornton’s seventh career game winning goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, second in this series. It was also his first registered game winning goal in overtime. He had not been there before. Magnanimous in victory, Thornton immediately praised his soCal rivals for an intense and colorful all-California playoff series. “They threw everything at us,” Thornton told CSN California’s Brodie Brazil. “The goaltender played great. They just have a great team defense. I said earlier, this is not a 7 seed, this is a very good team.” One glance in the corners or in front of the net late in games 5 and 6, and you could tell this was an intense Western Conference playoff game. Among bitter Pacific Division rivals, the competition was even more heightened.

Thornton’s series winning goal also capped a string of wild momentum swings late in the game. The Sharks have never made it easy on themselves in the playoffs. Last year against Colorado they scored 3 own goal deflections off of 3 different players, but they still managed to bear down and win the series. That trend would continue on Monday night. Dany Heatley’s alleged third period game winner was followed by an ill advised Jason Demers penalty and subsequent Trevor Lewis power play goal. Then an even more ill advised Drew Doughty two handed cross check to the head of Setoguchi was followed by a 5-minute charging major and 10-minute game misconduct to Jamie McGinn. McGinn’s hit on the puck carrying Brad Richardson was flagged at 16:37 in the third period of a tied playoff elimination game.

It was a gift from the hockey gods (and referee Dan O’Halloran) to Los Angeles, but the Kings could not convert. Asked how the Sharks would approach a 3 and a half minute penalty kill at the end of the third period, and a minute and a half penalty kill to start overtime, Joe Thornton was circumspect. “Minute by minute, shift by shift. Win little battles and stay in the moment,” Thornton told TSN. “Don’t think about what is going to happen next, just stay in the moment.” The moments were excruciatingly protracted for San Jose and Los Angeles fans. A 6-player scrum in the corner was actually whistled dead, but the best scoring chances in regulation came on a heeled Williams shot wide, and a pair of rebounds sent into a mass of bodies by Ryan Smyth and Drew Doughty. Smyth actually raised his arms in celebration, but the mass of bodies and Antti Niemi made the save.

“It was pretty positive (on the bench after the 5 minute penalty call) to be honest with you,” Thornton told CSNCA. After allowing a pair of earlier power play goals against, Thornton said the Sharks special teams remained positive. “Our penalty kill wasn’t too sharp until that, so we felt that we had to redeem ourselves. With 3 and a half left in the period we felt we could kill that off, and then get a good push for the minute and a half and go from there. We did a great job.”

In overtime, the Sharks penalty kill was able to challenge Los Angeles entering the blueline and keep them on the perimeter of the offensive zone. The last two critical penalty kill saves may have actually come when Douglas Murray froze Drew Doughty’s shot, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic blocked a shot with his body at the end of regulation. Either way, goaltender Antti Niemi was big in a rebound performance one game after being pulled. “(Niemi) is the backbone of our team,” Thornton said. Pointing to the team’s mid-season turnaround, Thornton praised Antti Niemi for helping lead the Sharks to the postseason. “If we don’t have Nemo, we are not in this position right now. We are probably sitting in the 9th or 10th spot because weren’t finding our way early on in the year. He is the backbone, and we love playing in front of him.” Niemi stopped 26 of 29 shots for his third win of the postseason, his second in overtime.

Asked how long the Sharks could enjoy the first round win, Thornton gave them 60 minutes. That would be 2 minutes and 22 seconds less than it took to knock the Kings out of the playoffs. “You enjoy it for an hour or so, then you get ready,” Thornton said. “We don’t know who we play yet. This is just the start. We have a lot of work to do still.” That work will continue in the second round against either the Chicago Blackhawks or Detroit Red Wings.

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