LOS ANGELES – It wasn’t the several missed scoring chances in Game 7 that necessarily cost the Sharks a chance to compete in the NHL’s final four, according to Todd McLellan.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks' season ends with Game 7 loss in L.A.]
In his postgame press conference following the loss, the head coach still had the end of Game 2 on his mind, when the Kings scored two late power play goals to shock the Sharks, 4-3.
“We’d love to go back and play Game 2 over again. The last four or five minutes, that’s probably the one that we needed, and didn’t get,” he said.
As for the missed opportunities against Jonathan Quick and the Kings on Tuesday, McLellan didn’t fault his team’s effort or inability to “bear down.”
“We had very good looks. And trust me, it wasn’t that they weren’t trying to bear down, it just didn’t go,” he said. “We picked the wrong spot or we didn’t shoot quick enough, maybe we held on too long, but the competitiveness and effort of our team and organization down the stretch is something I’m very proud of, and we should be proud.”
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Several times over the past few weeks, the Sharks players and their coach have said how much the players on the roster enjoy each other’s company. McLellan said before Game 7 that he didn’t need to recite a pregame motivating speech, because the players in the locker room were already playing for one another.
“We had a lot of fun, especially toward the end,” Pavelski said. “Guys enjoyed it, we enjoyed traveling on the road, we enjoyed it at home. There’s a lot of good times from the season.”
McLellan was asked if that makes the season-ending loss any more difficult, as the Sharks seemed to come together both on and off the ice following several moves before the trade deadline.
“It stings,” he said. “The group that we ended up with after the trade deadline could have went one way or the other. We’re in transition a little bit as an organization with some of the moves we made, but I thought the way they banded together and played for each other and with each other was exceptional.
“It was a really positive sign for our organization, not only for the playoffs, but moving forward. It’s not about one or two guys. It’s about the group as a whole, and they accepted that, and we have something to build on moving forward.”
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Logan Couture limped to the dressing room in the second period of Game 3, only to return later and score the game-winning, overtime goal. He managed just one point (a power play goal in Game 4) for the rest of the series.
Was he playing hurt?
“He was sore, he was sore,” McLellan said. “There were some questions about his productivity after the injury. He played sore. A lot of our guys did, but a lot of theirs did as well.”
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Quick will get all of the headlines from the series, and rightfully so, but his counterpart played nearly just as well on the other end of the ice.
Antti Niemi allowed two goals or less in nine of his 11 postseason starts, posting a 1.87 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in the playoffs. He’s up for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender for his strong regular season.
McLellan sang his praises after Game 7.
“We’re not playing tonight if Nemo doesn’t play the way he did down the stretch. In fact, I don’t think we get to play against Vancouver if Nemo doesn’t play the way he did down the stretch. He’s up for the Vezina; he’s our team MVP for a reason.
“Just like some of the shooters, some of the defensemen, coaching decisions, sometimes you’d like to have one back. But, I thought Nemo played an outstanding series, outstanding game, and I don’t know if you’ll see that type of goaltending in another series. Maybe you will, but it was a pretty special series for goaltending.”