Sharks hang on in a classic Game 7, beat Red Wings 3-2 and move on to West finals

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It’s only fitting that a series that saw such greatness out of both San Jose and Detroit through each of their three wins saw a Game 7 worthy of representing the rest of the series with the sixth one-goal game of the seven game series. The six one goal games made this matchup the closest in NHL history.

Ultimately the Sharks were able to avoid joining an ignominious group of teams through history to lose a series after blowing a 3-0 series lead, winning Game 7 3-2 over Detroit and moving on to the Western Conference finals against Vancouver.

Ultimately, the game was won in the first period for the Sharks as they were able to jump out quickly on the Red Wings forcing the Wings to defend early and putting them back on their heels. That plan worked out well for the Sharks as they were able to get a power play goal from Devin Setoguchi just over 12 minutes into the game followed up by a snipe of a goal from Logan Couture to send the Sharks into intermission with a 2-0 lead.

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As it’s gone all series long, the Wings were down but not out as they were able to cut the lead to one thanks to Henrik Zetterberg converting on a 3-on-2 break to put one past Antti Niemi (38 saves). While the Sharks were still doing their part to keep Detroit held back, the Wings started to push play more and Zetterberg’s tally changed the pace.

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The third period set the stage for an incredible finish and it did not disappoint as one embattled San Jose Shark turned out to come up big. Patrick Marleau scored with under eight minutes to play in the period after a net mouth scramble that saw Jimmy Howard (27 saves) lose track of the puck. After Game 5, Versus’ Jeremy Roenick took Marleau to task for his poor play in that game. Marleau’s tally turned out to be a big one.

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With the Sharks ahead by two goals and seemingly ready to roll on to victory, the Wings wouldn’t go quietly again. Once again it would be Pavel Datsyuk who would do his part to lead the Wings back scoring perhaps the goal of the playoffs ripping a backhand shot over the shoulder of Antti Niemi.

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With the Wings within one, the pressure was on as the game closed down but Detroit didn’t have one more miracle in their pocket. Sharks captain Joe Thornton had perhaps one of the best games of his career earning a great assist on Setoguchi’s goal in the first and doing his part to shadow the Wings’ best players defensively and winning faceoffs. Pierre McGuire spoke with Thornton after the game to get his thoughts.

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For Detroit the loss is disappointing for sure and with the Wings losing the services of both Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary to concussions in this game, their battle to win the game and the series was made even more difficult down two key forwards. As useful as guys like Justin Abdelkader and Patrick Eaves are they’re not as offensively skilled as either Cleary or Bertuzzi. The Wings’ offseason will see some changes coming to it and also a potential retirement from Nicklas Lidstrom.

The Sharks are able to move on to the Western Conference finals where they’ll meet the top seeded team in the conference. With Vancouver laying ahead for the Sharks, they’ll have quite the road ahead to try and do battle with them. After such a knockdown, drag out series with Detroit, they’ll have to stay sharp to keep up with the equally motivated Canucks.

Here’s the highlights from tonight’s game:

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Here’s the recap from the Versus crew:

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Busy Blackhawks bring back Pokka, reportedly let Rasmussen walk

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A busy off-season for the Chicago Blackhawks continued with some smaller moves that may still surprise some.

The eyebrow-raiser, at least in some quarters, came when the Blackhawks decided not to hand Dennis Rasmussen a qualifying offer, thus allowing the 26-year-old forward to hit free agency. That news comes from The Athletic’s Scott Powers.

Rasmussen played in 68 games last season (along with three playoff contests), receiving almost 12 minutes of ice time per night. Both were examples of him seeing more of a role in his second year with Chicago.

Still, he didn’t put up big numbers at either the AHL or NHL level, so apparently the Blackhawks decided to spring him free. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports that the team might have soured on Rasmussen after he rejected an offer for a contract extension back in March.

Powers also notes that Ville Pokka was signed to a one-year deal, opening the door for him to possibly make Chicago’s roster.

These developments aren’t likely to add to what’s already been a frustrating off-season for Joel Quenneville in particular, but this still lines up with a pattern of changes. In the latest edition of “30 Thoughts,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman shares some details of Coach Q’s irritation:

21. Joel Quenneville was at the draft Saturday after not appearing on Friday. He stormed out of a coach’s meeting — in full view of reporters — as news broke of the Chicago trades. It would have been very tough for him to lose Hjalmarsson, one of the NHL’s underappreciated great players.

Quenneville’s cage was already rattled by the firing of assistant Mike Kitchen, so here’s hoping he at least signed off on these latest moves.

Report: Red Wings grant Coyotes permission to interview Todd Nelson

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There’s some activity as far as the Arizona Coyotes’ coaching situation goes, and soon there may be some answers.

As noted during the weekend, the Coyotes were interested in speaking with Todd Nelson, who most recently coached the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate) to a Calder Cup victory. The Red Wings granted Arizona permission to interview Nelson, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James.

(Red Wings fans are greeting this news with despair.)

It’s not the only noteworthy development, either, as the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that the Coyotes parted ways with associate coach Jim Playfair today. (The Coyotes confirmed the news moments after this post went up.)

This is a time of change for this organization, and some are bristling at the way they’re handling things. Still, there’s also an argument that the team is ultimately making wise choices, and Nelson could end up being a big part of that.

Assuming they convince him to come on board, of course.

Gryba sticks with Edmonton on two-year, $1.8 million deal

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After spending the last two seasons with the Oilers, Eric Gryba has signed on for two more.

Gryba, the veteran blueliner that was set to go unrestricted on Saturday, has signed a two-year, $1.8 million extension with Edmonton, per TSN. The deal comes after the 29-year-old appeared in 40 games for the Oilers last year, and three during the club’s playoff run.

Gryba is the second UFA blueliner Edmonton has re-upped with, having previously inked Kris Russell to a four-year, $16 million pact. It’s the byproduct of available cap space GM Peter Chiarelli created by shipping out Jordan Eberle to the Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome.

It’s likely Gryba will continue to play his existing role in Edmonton — a physical, hard-nosed depth defenseman that won’t play every night, but can jump into the lineup in case of injury or when the Oilers face a particular matchup.

This move also gives the Oilers seven defensemen under contract for next season: Gryba, Russell, Andrej Sekera (who could miss extensive time with a torn ACL), Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Matthew Benning and Darnell Nurse.

So, perhaps Chiarelli isn’t done signing blueliners.

 

 

Report: Kings in contact with Joe Thornton

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Yesterday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported 12 teams were in contact with San Jose’s Joe Thorton who, on Saturday, will become an unrestricted free agent.

Now, it’s been revealed that one of those teams is also one of San Jose’s biggest rivals — the Los Angeles Kings.

Per LA Kings Insider, the Kings have “been in contact” with Thornton, who just wrapped the last of a three-year, $20.25 million deal with a $6.75M average annual cap hit.

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On top of Thornton’s abilities are his relationships with key figures in Los Angeles’ front office. He played with Kings General Manager Rob Blake in San Jose, while Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Development Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager when he played in Boston.

On top of these relationships, Thornton also remains very close with Glen Murray, a figure in Los Angeles’ player development, and I’m told the two, who played together with the Bruins for three and a half seasons, regularly communicate.

LeBrun reported that staying with the Sharks remains Thornton’s No. 1 option, but it’s pretty clear interest in him is sky-high — and coming from a number of different places.

Los Angeles has been making moves to clear cap space, recently buying out the remainder of defenseman Matt Greene’s contract. The Kings also lost blueliner Brayden McNabb to Vegas at the expansion draft.

What happens with Marian Gaborik‘s $4.875M cap hit remains to be seen. The veteran winger underwent an offseason procedure for a “chronic” knee issue and, depending on his recovery, could open the year on long-term injured reserve.

Thornton would give L.A. a formidable one-two punch at center along with Anze Kopitar (and a truly formidable 1-2-3 punch with Kopitar and Jeff Carter, for that matter). It’s also worth noting that as he’s gotten longer in the tooth, Thornton has successfully platooned as a winger — most notably during San Jose’s Stanley Cup run in 2016.