Friday, April 12, 2019

Sharks fans as mad -- and jealous -- as ever against show-stealing Las Vegas Golden Knights


Just when fans of the San Jose Sharks thought the NHL world was rightfully back on its correct axis, their team got upstaged yet again by the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
The Sharks lost a crucial game and Logan Couture thought he lost a testicle on the game-changing play.
Though they rallied from 3-0 deficit in the game’s first 6 ½ minutes and managed to tie it by first intermission, the Sharks couldn’t seize the momentum and lost Game Two of their best-of-seven playoff series against their newest arch nemesis. Couture thought he scored the go-ahead goal early in the second period, deflecting with his stick a hard shot by teammate Brent Burns aimed at Couture's crotch past Las Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
“I thought I lost a testicle. Luckily it’s still there,” Couture said later.
Unfortunately, it was not a joking matter at the moment. Couture’s go-ahead goal was disallowed and instead he was given a two-minute penalty for goalie interference. The Knights scored the go-ahead goal on the ensuing penalty a mere 40 seconds later.
“The problem I had with the call is No. 1 he (Couture) is entitled to that ice because Fleury was outside the (goalie’s) crease,” said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. “The travesty of the call is that one call is a two-goal swing. It was devastating for our players.”
The series now moves to Las Vegas where the Sharks’ chances of being show stoppers are akin to Siegfried and Roy reuniting with tigers.
For Sharks fans this act is getting as old as Wayne Newton. Last year they watched their beloved team lose to an expansion team Knights, in the playoffs. Worse, Las Vegas made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in its first year of existence.
Sharks fans weren’t furious. They were insanely jealous. After all it took their team 25 long and aggravating years to make the Stanley Cup Finals for the very first time. They had to suffer through the Cow Palace days, the Mike Rathje Era, and all the playoffs that started with promise and potential and ended in frustration, disappointment, and lame excuses.
The Sharks used to be the NHL’s darlings. First of their kind teal-colored uniforms, the team entering the ice through the mouth of a giant shark into the loudest building in the league and fans with cardboard “teeth” signs doing the chomp to the theme of “Jaws” for power plays. The league had never seen anything like it!
Then along came Las Vegas with all its glamour and glitz. This week the T-Mobile Arena was voted the best hockey atmosphere in the NHL because their home games are show stoppers. Their Vice President of Entertainment was hired away from the WWE. They introduced the Knight Line drummers, produced “Tournament of Kings” skits on ice in pre-game and rock bands played between periods. The Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak, a season ticket holder, read the starting lineups and Knights fever made its way to the point that Celine Dion started wearing a Marc-Andre Fleury jersey and the Bellagio fountains sprayed to the tune of “Viva Las Vegas.”
Once the place to be for NHL hockey theater, the San Jose Arena and Sharks fans started to feel like Knott’s Berry Farm to the Las Vegas Knights’ Disneyland.
However, in Game One on Wednesday, the bounces seem to be going to the Sharks’ way again, witness their first goal of the playoffs. A rocket hard wrist shot inside the blue line by Brent Burns was deflected into the goal by teammate Joe Pavelski off his mouth – yes, his mouth – standing outside the crease. Pavelski lost multiple teeth, but gained momentum for the Sharks.
As weird shots go, it ranked right up there with Steve Hanson’s slapshot off the head of the organist in the Hanson brothers first shift on the ice in War Memorial Arena with the Charlestown Chiefs in the 1977 movie Slapshot.
The Sharks also scored a goal 3-of-3 for the first time in the team’s playoff history. The last NHL player to score a goal 3-of-3 in the playoffs was Wayne Gretzky. In 1985.
It appeared Lady Luck and destiny was on the Sharks’ side until, in Game Two, the Knights worked over Sharks goalie Martin Jones like a nickel slot machine on The Strip. They took a 3-0 lead and Jones was replaced into goal just 6:39 into the game.
Somehow the Sharks played their way back into the game by scoring three goals of their own in the final three minutes of the period.
Sitting next to in the press box Dave Taylor, who played with the L.A. Kings from 1977-94 and now Vice President of Hockey Operations for the St. Louis Blues, said he’d never seen a wild first-period like that in NHL playoff history in his lifetime.
And that was before Couture put the game – and his testicles -- on the line. Though the Sharks surrendered two shorthanded goals and a power play goal in the game while their power play was 1-for-8, Sharks fans clearly blamed referee Kelly Sutherland’s goalie interference penalty on Couture for the loss.
In the final seconds of the game, Sharks fans chanted “Ref You Suck.” The Knights may have voiced a different opinion in their dressing, but they weren’t telling. You know what they say “What happens in San Jose stays in San Jose.”
The Sharks were one-upped again by Las Vegas.

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