There are playoff moments and then there are bizarre ones such as last night's Game 3 WC quarterfinal between the Sharks and Avalanche. A game that saw the West's top seed dominate Colorado to the tune of 51-17 in shots, including a ridiculous 43-8 discrepancy from the second period on. Yet they weren't able to solve netminder Craig Anderson, who was clearly in another dimension. It was his goaltending that gave the eighth seeded Avs a chance to steal a game they had no business being in.
How incredible was it? Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe combined for the same amount of shots (16) that the Avs fired on Evgeni Nabokov. Manny Malhotra attempted seven. Rob Blake, Patrick Marleau and Scott Nichol each took five. Even Jumbo Joe had three, matching Paul Stastny's team best on the home side. There were lengthy stretches where San Jose minus Dany Heatley (undisclosed injury) had Colorado pinned in but they couldn't get one past Anderson who saw everything.
When the game went to sudden death, anything was possible. It's just that no one could've predicted what happened next. On the period's first shift, Ryan O'Reilly pressured Dan Boyle, whose backhand pass attempt to partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic behind the net instead managed to sneak through a stunned Nabokov- giving Colorado the unlikeliest of victories. The 17th shot was Boyle's costly mistake that put him in the same company as Steve Smith and more recently Marek Malik, whose team at least won. A day later, it's still hard to fathom. Did it really happen?!?!?!?!?! Are the Sharks hexed? They went belly up in Round One last year to hated Anaheim. Can history repeat itself? Or are Todd McLellan's Sharks resilient enough to bounce back and get the required three victories in the last four needed to advance and temporarily get the monkey off their backs?
"We didn’t beat their goalie,” McLellan said. “We found a way to beat
ours.” Replays seemed to indicate that Boyle's gaffe might've went off
O'Reilly's stick changing paths for the stunner of stunners.
“I think so,” the unlikely hero said. “Some days you get breaks like
“When you work hard and you stay positive, good results happen and you get
the lucky bounces,” Anderson pointed out after saving his team's bacon and
getting loud chants of "Andy, Andy" from a pumped up crowd. “It’s
Whatever the reason, 51 turned out to be the Avs' winning number. The 51 saves from Anderson, who easily could've been up for the Vezina despite his higher GAA. And the wild sequence in which Boyle managed to do something Colorado couldn't. Beat his own team, with O'Reilly credited with the winner at 51 seconds of overtime. To the poor guy's credit, he faced the music afterwards at his locker and basically indicated it is what it is. They have to try to treat it as a loss and move on. Can a team whose fragile history has burned past Springs rise up? They'll have to.