The Sharks and their fans waited 25 years for the chance to host a Stanley Cup Final game, and their performance on Saturday night certainly didn’t disappoint.
All season long, the San Jose Sharks have celebrated their 25th anniversary as a franchise.
The greatest of those occasions occurred on Saturday night as the organization hosted their first-ever Stanley Cup Final game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
While it certainly wasn’t the most ideal of circumstances with team teal in an 0-2 hole, that didn’t prevent the patrons of San Jose coming out in waves to show their support for their team.
Hours before the game even started, teal clad fans showed up outside of SAP Center for a street rally, or in downtown San Jose where bars were packed with people who have lived through the highs-and-lows of this franchise.
They all came together for Saturday night to help will their team as much as cheer on the boys in teal as they looked to make this Stanley Cup a series.
Walking into the arena, you could tell the vibe an atmosphere was different. As the players came out for warm-ups, the entire lower bowl was completely full.
There were more people watching the two teams get loose than on many occasions throughout the year at SAP Center.
But all those previous games didn’t matter, just this one game. This article from the Mercury News sums up the emotions that surrounded this contest.
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From the drop of the puck, the fans were engaged, eager for any reason to blow the roof off the Shark Tank.
Even when San Jose fell behind on an unfortunate bounce, the fans didn’t let that deter their excitement.
When Justin Braun found the back of the net midway through the first period, the Tank exploded with elation as the Sharks were right back in the game.
After a second period full of close calls, the teal clad fans were hoping to see their first lead. Unfortunately, a late Penguins goal would seem to quell the energy in the building.
But, with their season seemingly on the line, San Jose and their faithful would rally.
A four-minute power play would be the momentum-altering opportunity and the Sharks would utilize every last second. That’s when Joel Ward skated right across the blue line and decided what the heck, I’m going to blast this right through Matt Murray.
And that’s exactly what happened to the delight of more than 17,562 fans.
From that moment on, the Tank would ebb and flow with every rush up the ice or every shot towards the goal.
With the game heading into overtime for the second consecutive game, fans were hoping for just one break to turn the tides.
It was a fascinating overtime with chances on both sides. The Sharks had the first flurry, but the Penguins countered with a wave of pressure of their own.
Joe Thornton was denied on two occasions, while Evgeni Malkin missed wide when all alone in front.
Finally, a moment of magic 25 years in the making occurred. Off a seemingly harmless dump in, Melker Karlsson when into the corner and hounded the puck, losing his stick and glove in the process.
As he headed off the ice, Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi provided the pressure down low before Donskoi took hold, skated around the net and fired a perfectly placed shot off the mask of Murray and into the net.
Boom, just like that a release of every kind of emotion filled the SAP Center as the Sharks celebrated a 3-2 victory.
Relief. Excitement. Awe. You name it, it filled the arena as fans didn’t want to leave their seats as the Sharks celebrated on the ice.
They’ve waited too long for this moment and everyone was just soaking it in, waiving their towels in support of the effort they just witnessed.
It was a truly remarkable night and one that won’t be soon forgotten for all those in attendance. After being so close for so long, fans were appreciative of the brand of hockey their boys in teal played.
The night was one that had been dreamed of by so many people for so many years, and it exceeded everyone’s expectations. Now, the task at hand is to replicate that effort and intensity in Game 4 later tonight as team teal looks to tie this series at two.
It won’t be easy, but all of San Jose is ready and willing to give their all in support of this team. They don’t want this to be a one-off moment in time, but one that has been built over 25 years of anticipation for the ultimate prize.