NASHVILLE – First, it wasn’t a goal. Then, allegedly, it was, before it wasn’t again.
That’s how chaotic Joe Pavelski’s apparent overtime marker was in the Sharks’ eventual 4-3 triple overtime defeat to the Predators in Game 4 of their second-round series, which is now tied at two games apiece with Game 5 set for Saturday at SAP Center.
About seven-and-a-half minutes into the first overtime, Pavelski attempted to glove a puck that had rebounded six feet above ice level off of Pekka Rinne. He was given a slight shove from behind by Paul Gaustad, plowed into Rinne, and managed to swipe in the loose disc that had settled just outside the goalmouth.
Originally, according to Pavelski, the referee told him that it was no goal due to him knocking it in with his hand. Upon review, though, it was clear that Pavelski managed to smack the puck over the line with his stick blade. Good goal.
The NHL’s Situation Room, though, can initiate a review in overtime due to interference with the goalkeeper. That’s what it did, and the eventual ruling was that Pavelski came into incidental contact with Rinne, preventing the Nashville goalie from a chance to stop the puck.
No goal. And some confused Sharks afterwards.
“I don’t understand, I guess incidental contact is you’re cross-checked from behind while you’re in the air, and you have the opportunity to stop,” Pete DeBoer said. “That rule has been clear as mud to every coach in the league all year, so why should it be any different tonight?”
Pavelski said: “Just coming in, following the play, the puck comes, get it down, there’s guys on me. Feels like I’m getting pushed and hammered.”
Logan Couture also came with the argument that Pavelski was shoved into Rinne.
“We were pretty positive it was a goal,” Couture said. “Pavs hit it with his stick and he got cross-checked pretty hard from Gaustad. The explanation was that he had time to stop. If you’re reaching up to get a puck and getting cross-checked from behind, I don’t know where you find time to stop. It’s a weird one.”
More than 43 game minutes later, Mike Fisher sent the home crowd happy when he swung in the rebound of a Mattias Ekholm shot at 11:12 of the third overtime, ending the Predators’ longest game ever, and the Sharks’ second-longest.
Besides the Pavelski no-goal, the Sharks had several other chances to put it away before Fisher scored. Tomas Hertl had a couple, in particular, including one clean look at the net on a brilliant setup by Joe Thornton in the second OT.
Hertl tried going blocker side on Rinne, but couldn’t squeeze it through.
He said: “Maybe I should [have gone] backhand because he probably slides over. But, it’s [too] late, and I need just forget my chances and be ready for next game.”
Couture, who nearly finished off the game in the first overtime after weaving his way though a host of Preds, said: “In overtime we missed wide open nets. [Rinne] didn’t even have to make saves, that’s on us to bury those chances. A couple of them were gaping.”
It took the Sharks some time to get going. In the first period, Nashville gained a 2-1 lead and was carrying play. The tide started to turn during a four-on-four after coincidental minors at 6:38 of the second period to Tommy Wingels and Filip Forsberg.
San Jose went on to secure its first lead of the night on Brent Burns’ power play goal, his second of the night, at 6:48 of the third period. James Neal’s rebound conversion with 4:11 to go forced everyone to stay in the building until after 1 a.m. local time.
Regardless of how the game ended, the Sharks were pleased with their overall effort in a game they won’t soon forget.
“It’s just fun hockey,” Couture said. “If you’re not having a great time out there playing in overtime, you’re doing the wrong thing. It was a blast. It was fun, back and forth. It’s what the NHL is all about. I’m sure the fans enjoyed it, and I just enjoyed being a part of it.”
Pavelski said: “Felt good, felt really good. We had chances, we were all alone, some good plays, rebounds. Pucks were laying there. Don’t know how it didn’t go in a few times. ... That’s overtime. It’s awesome, it really is. Would have liked it to go the other way, though.”