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Down 3-0 at home with 10:47 remaining in the third period, the San Jose Sharks –who were at one point trailing the series, 3-1– mounted an improbable Game 7 comeback to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime, 5-4 , and advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This is just the second time in in NHL history that a team has overcome a three-goal, third-period deficit to win a Game 7 (via NHL). The other occurrence came on May 13, 2013, when the Boston Bruins completed their historic comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The critical moment came at the 9:13 mark of the third, when Vegas received a five-minute major penalty for cross-checking. The Sharks would quickly use it to their advantage as they would score four goals, and complete the comeback, in a 4:01 stretch to take a 4-3 lead.
Vegas, in desperation, would pull their goalie in the final minute to gain the extra attacker. Their gamble would pay off as Jonathan Marchessault would find the back of the net with 47 seconds left to knot the game, 4-4, and send Game 7 into overtime.
With the possibility of a second overtime approaching, the Sharks would finally put away the game, and the series, for good with 1:41 remaining in the first overtime. Barclay Goodrow would receive a pass from at the top of the right circle, skate to the crease and guide the puck past Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for the game-winner, 5-4.
Amongst the many important plays during the game's final two periods, no player had a bigger role in San Jose's comeback than New Jersey Rocket alumnus Kevin Labanc.
Labanc was credited in all four of San Jose's power-play goals (1G, 3A), becoming the first player in NHL history to record four (4) points in a period during a Game 7.
His first assist came at 9:20, seven seconds into Vegas' five-minute penalty. A quick shot from the blue line would be blocked in the nearby circle by by Tomas Hertl. Labanc would collect the puck and ship it to Logan Couture in the opposite circle for the shot and score.
Labanc would record his second assist 49 seconds later (:56 into the Vegas' penalty) at 10:09. Skating towards the corner boards with the puck, Labanc would make a backhanded pass to the blue line, where Erik Karlsson would shoot it directly to Hertl for the redirect into the net.
For his third assist, Labanc would repeat his same pass near the corner boards, this time to defenseman Brent Burns. Burns would then pass it along the blue line to Couture, who would score the game-tying goal on the slapshot. With 1:20 remaining on the penalty, the game was now even, 3-3.
Labanc would make his most important contribution at 13:21 of the third period; just 4:08 into the penalty and 4:01 since the Sharks scored their first goal of the power play.
After receiving a Timo Meier pass at the right point, Labanc skated towards the right circle with the Vegas defense closing in. At the hash marks, Labanc took a wrist shot on net for the goal to give San Jose their first lead of the game, 4-3.
In addition to being the first player in NHL history to record four points in a period during a Game 7, Labanc's goal help set or tie the following records (via NHL)
The Sharks will face the Colorado Avalanche in round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, beginning Fri., April 26, in San Jose.
ALUMNI STATISTICS - SAN JOSE
Kevin Labanc (SJ) - 1G | 3A | 4P | -1 | 3 SOG | 26:09 TOI
ALUMNI STATISTICS - VEGAS
Alex Tuch (VGS) - 0G | 0A | 0P | 1 | 3 SOG | 20:36 TOI
In what has become an annual occurrence in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs required a winner-take-all seventh game to decide who would advance to the second round.
The Bruins would take advantage of the home-ice they worked all season to earn, and the support of a roaring TD Garden crowd, to eliminate Toronto with a final score of 5-1.
After two periods of play, the game was setting up for another classic finish, but a Sean Kuraly goal just under three minutes into the third period would lead to a four-goal victory by the Bruins.
Kuraly and the Bruins' fourth line were the defining factor of the game, tallying five points on two goals and three assists from Kuraly, Joakim Nordstrom, and South Shore Kings alum Noel Acciari.
With their season on the line, and in desperate need of any momentum, Toronto pulled their goalie with 3:01 left in regulation. As Toronto began an attack from their own zone, Boston's David Krejci would force a turnover at the blue line and pass it over to Charlie Coyle (South Shore Kings/Boston Jr. Terriers) for the empty-net goal to extend the Bruins lead, 4-1.
For Coyle, the goal was his third of the postseason, increasing his point total to four in the first round. After the game, he spoke to the media about the victory and how the team fought to play their best game despite dealing with obstacles throughout the series.
The Bruins will face the Columbus Blue Jackets in round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, beginning Thurs., April 25, in Boston.
ALUMNI STATISTICS - TORONTO
Ron Hainsey (TOR) - 0G | 0A | 0P | -1 | 0 SOG | 20:42 TOI
ALUMNI STATISTICS - BOSTON
Noel Acciari (BOS) - 0G | 1A | 1P | 1 | 0 SOG | 13:04 TOI
Charlie Coyle (BOS) - 1G | 0A | 1P | 1 | 1 SOG | 11:52 TOI
Connor Clifton (BOS) - DNP (Scratched)
Chris Wagner (BOS) - DNP (Scratched)