LAS VEGAS — After the Game 5 victory last Thursday, Sharks forward Tomas Hertl told an arena full of jubilant San Jose fans that there would be a Game 7 in their series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“I know we have one more game and come back for Game 7,” he said. “I believe it. We’re a better team than them.”
His shorthanded goal in double-overtime in Game 6 on Sunday delivered on that proclamation, giving the Sharks a 2-1 win in Las Vegas and a 3-3 series tie heading into Game 7 on Tuesday night.
Just don’t start calling him a modern day Mark Messier.
“There was no guarantee,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “Tomas wears his heart on this sleeve. I don’t know how that rolled out, whether it was through social media, but it was ridiculous.”
San Jose center Logan Couture said perhaps something was lost in translation. “I know the word ‘guarantee’ was thrown out there, but his English is a little broken. It’s tough for some of us to understand him sometimes,” he said.
As for Hertl? “It feels great. You know, everyone will say there’s a guarantee for Game 7 and everything. Well, there is the guarantee: Game 7. Now we have to go and finish it,” he said.
The Sharks forward scored the game-winner 11 minutes, 17 seconds in the second overtime. San Jose forward Barclay Goodrow was given a penalty for slashing the stick out of Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb‘s hands. With the Knights on the power play, the puck was intercepted by the Sharks.
Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic sent a pass to a streaking Hertl out of the zone. Knights defenseman Shea Theodore took an odd approach, attempting to play the puck rather than using his body to prevent Hertl from shooting. That allowed the Sharks forward to snap one past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (27 saves) and make good on his vow to the fans.
Hertl wasn’t sure whether or not he was going to shoot the puck on the play or dump it to change.
“[Fleury] took a little step left. I don’t know if he was cheating because I shot glove side the last couple games,” said Hertl, who has five goals in the series. “I don’t really know, because I was really tired. I couldn’t even celebrate. I didn’t know what to do.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Hertl is the first player in NHL postseason history to score a shorthanded goal in double-overtime or later.
His goal ended an intense, wild Game 6 between the two burgeoning rivals, despite there only being three goals scored in five periods. That’s because Sharks goalie Martin Jones literally saved the day with a 58-save effort, continuing a comeback effort in this series following three bad games that led to Knights’ wins.
The Sharks scored with 6.5 seconds left in the first period, converting a Golden Knights neutral zone turnover. Couture scored his fourth of the postseason, giving the Sharks the lead — something they had in the two previous games they won in the series. In fact, no team that has had a lead in this series has ever trailed in a game.
The teams went to overtime, and the first extra session featured several close calls for both teams, none closer than a Timo Meier shot off his own rebound that sailed over Fleury and would have entered the net had it not been for some heroics by defensemen Jon Merrill and Colin Wilson sprawled behind him.
But in the second overtime, Hertl’s shot ended it for the Sharks, who return home with a chance to complete a rally against a Golden Knights team that has had the better of the play in this series.
Any guarantees for Game 7, Tomas Hertl?
“No, no, no, no. I guarantee we will try our best,” said Hertl, laughing.
“Game 7 is the most fun game you can play in the NHL.”