This time around, the West's top seed is getting lots of production from lines No. 2 through 4 -- enough to save the Sharks' bacon despite falling behind five times in Game 2 at HP Pavilion. Second-line center Joe Pavelski sent the game into overtime by slamming in a blocked Dany Heatley shot with 32 seconds left and with Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov out of the net, and his linemate, Devin Setoguchi, provided the game winner during a San Jose power play 5:22 into extra time, redirecting a shot by Ryan Clowe.
San Jose's 6-5 victory sends the series to Denver tied at a game apiece, and keeps the specter of losing a series to the eighth seed for a second consecutive year at bay -- at least for now.
But how long can the Sharks go while getting little from the high-profile gold-medal winning Olympic line of Joe Thornton, Heatley and Patrick Marleau? The line accounted for four assists on Friday, true, but none of San Jose's seven goals in the two games have been scored by the trio, and the three were on the ice for three of Colorado's Game 2 goals.
Afterward, Setoguchi said that no one in the Sharks' room is concerned about the Thornton line, and third-line center Manny Malhotra -- who scored San Jose's second goal of the night -- pointed out that the top line gets the bulk of the defensive attention, yet still provided scoring opportunities for others.
Malhotra's line has done solid work and Scott Nichol's line has given San Jose plenty of life and energy. The Pavelski line, however, looks like the Sharks' best so far, racking up four goals and four assists in the two games.
"Our game plan it to get the puck in, get in on the forecheck and work to get it to the net," Setoguchi said. "We've been running pretty successful shifts in and shifts out."
"I thought it was real evident that everyone came out to play tonight," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "We had a little extra in the tank that we didn't have the other night. We overcame."
So the secondary lines were good and the defense may be a bit on its heels a few times: the Avalanche, for example, scored some quick goals Friday night at the start of the first period and second periods.
And how was Nabokov, who has yet to prove he can take a team deep into the playoffs since the lockout?
Well, he let in five goals during regulation (including one off San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic for the Avs' first goal) on just 22 shots. Colorado's Craig Anderson, by contrast, faced 52 shots (and he also recorded an assist, finding Chris Stewart speeding up the middle in the third period).
McLellan, however, liked the fact that Nabokov tightened up in overtime.
"That was a hard one to play in," McLellan said. "He did an admirable job of sticking with it when we needed him in overtime."
Now, if the Sharks can get their big-name scorers going during the series, maybe they'll at least make it out of the first round. If not, they'll be putting all their hope in Pavelski, Setoguchi and Clowe.