The San Jose Sharks have survived yet another Game 7 in these playoffs and they'll be heading to the Western Conference Final for the second time in the last four years.
The Sharks edged out the Avalanche with a 3-2 victory at home on Wednesday night, closing out the second round of the playoffs. San Jose saw Joe Pavelski return to the lineup for the first time since the captain suffered a scary head injury in the finale of their first-round series against the Golden Knights. Pavelski scored in his return.
As for the Avs, they had to endure half a period without star center Nathan MacKinnon, who suffered an injury scare in the first period. They also were dealt a tough hand when a potential game-tying goal in the second period was wiped off the board due to a controversial offside call.
In the end, though, it was the Sharks who came out on top
The Sharks move on to face the St. Louis Blues, who won their Game 7 against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. Neither team will have a rest advantage after going the distance in Round 2.
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NHL Playoffs for Wednesday, May 8Game 7: FINAL -- Sharks 3, Avalanche 2 (SJ wins series 4-3) [Box score]
Avs make it interesting, but fall short
Colorado came out with a great start to the third period and Tyson Jost pulled the Avs to within a goal just 51 seconds into the period. It's Jost's third straight game with a goal,
But San Jose hung on and preserved that 3-2 scoreline for the balance of the game, holding off a late push from the Avs to earn the Game 7 win and stamp their ticket to the Western Conference Final.
San Jose gets another big break in Game 7
The Avalanche appeared to tie the game in the second period when Derick Brassard forced a turnover that allowed Nathan MacKinnon to set up Colin Wilson in front of the Sharks' net. But that goal was challenged by the Sharks and officials determined that the play was offside because Gabriel Landeskog didn't get into the Colorado bench in time.
Here's a look at the sequence. Watch Landeskog at the top of the screen.
It was really close but the Sharks benefit from yet another big officiating call in a Game 7.
They capitalized on that good fortune and created a big swing when they scored the next goal. It came later in the period when Joonas Donskoi unleashed a turnaround ripper to make it 3-1.
Colorado has 20 minutes to erase a two-goal deficit or their season is over.
Avalanche get big buzzer-beater
Tomas Hertl doubled the Sharks' lead following the Pavelski goal and the Sharks appeared to be in full control of the game as it headed toward first intermission. However, the Avs got some signs of life later in the period. MacKinnon returned to action and Mikko Rantanen cut the Sharks' lead back down to one when he tipped a shot past Martin Jones with about seven seconds remaining in the period.
Joe Pavelski announces his return
Sharks captain Joe Pavelski returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a head injury in Game 7 of San Jose's first-round series against Vegas. He wasted no time in making an impact, scoring the Sharks' first goal of the night in the opening period. Pavelski showcased his elite deflection skills by tipping a Brent Burns shot past Philipp Grubauer for the early lead against Colorado.
MacKinnon exits early
Nathan MacKinnon is Colorado's most important player and he was expected to shoulder a heavy load for the Avs in Game 7, but things did not go to plan. MacKinnon got injured just a few minutes into the game when he crashed into the boards and appeared to suffer an upper body ailment. The star center headed to the locker room for evaluation and hasn't been seen since.
Colorado could be in real trouble if they're without MacKinnon.