SAN JOSE – The Sharks have been in this situation before.
A positive way to look at that would be in 2011, they beat Detroit in Game 7 at home in the second round after jumping out to a 3-0 series lead before losing games four through six.
The flip side, however, is that of the nine times an NHL team has stormed back from such a dramatic hole to tie a best-of-seven series at three games apiece, two involve the Sharks being on the wrong end.
Los Angeles, which was outscored 17-8 in the first three games of the current first round series, tied it on Monday night with a 4-1 win in Game 6. Game 7 is Wednesday night at SAP Center.
“We probably didn’t expect to get to Game 7 this way, but we knew it was a real possibility of it being there,” Joe Pavelski said on Tuesday.
Captain Joe Thornton commented on his recollections from the 3-2, Game 7 win over Detroit, in which Patrick Marleau netted the deciding goal with less than eight minutes left in the third period.
“We were a confident bunch,” Thornton said. “We felt like our game was missing in a couple games, but then we slowly got it back. This year is kind of the same way. I think our game kind of went missing for a couple games. [Monday] night we saw what we can do. So, we’re a confident group in here.”
Defenseman Brad Stuart was on the opposite side in 2011 as a member of the Red Wings, and offered some memories of that series from a different perspective.
"I just remember you're down 3-0, and it seemed like it happened so fast, and then the next thing we're going into Game 7,” Stuart said. “I do recall going into that game feeling good. I felt like we had momentum, but the Shark Tank is a tough building to win in. We've got to make sure we remember that, and make sure that's the case."
The Sharks have a 5-3 record all-time when a series is decided in the seventh game, but lost the most recent match last season to the Kings in the second round at Staples Center, 2-1.
The difference, of course, is that the Sharks will return to the building in which they had the NHL’s second best regular season home mark (29-7-5). They had won seven straight playoffs games at SAP Center before dropping Game 5 on Saturday.
Stuart believes the fans affected the outcome in 2011, the last time there has been a Game 7 in San Jose. Wednesday will be the franchise's third-ever Game 7 at home.
“You're on the road. You fall behind. All of a sudden the crowd's pretty intense,” Stuart said. “It almost does seem it make it a little tough. It will be our job to make sure that we're giving them that opportunity."
Getting the lead, as Stuart alluded to, could be paramount. The Kings have scored first in each of the last three games, and four of the six. The Sharks have played with a lead just 21 minutes and 32 seconds since the start of Game 3, which ended with Marleau’s overtime goal.
The Kings’ tighten up defensively when enjoying an advantage, according to Todd McLellan, “and they’ve been able to get that lead in the first seven or eight minutes of the last few games, which makes the game a little bit different for both teams,” he said.
Jason Demers said: "First goal's important, obviously. We can't stress that enough. They play different when they've got the lead than when they're the trailer. We just have to get off to a good start in our building, got to use our fans.”
Win, and the Sharks will advance to the second round and face Anaheim. Lose, and it will arguably be a low point in the 21-season history of the franchise.
“We have Game 7 experience that went real positive, and we have - as early as last year – a Game 7 experience that went negative,” McLellan said. “We have all sorts of experiences to draw upon, but this is a completely different event with different people involved in it.
“We have to play to find out.”