SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — There was little doubt how the San Jose Sharks fans felt when they saw team captain Joe Pavelski skate onto the ice for his first shift in Game 7 of the team’s playoff series against Colorado.
The cheers rocked the rafters of the SAP Center.
“It was awesome,” said Pavelski with a crowd of reporters around his locker after the Sharks clinching 3-2 win. “It was pretty cool.”
Just over two weeks ago, the scene was much different. There were no cheers, just stunned silence. Blood flowed out of his head as a groggy Pavelski was helped to the lockerroom.
It was another playoff series Game 7 — this one against Vegas. With the Golden Knights leading 3-0, Pavelski was cross-checked by Cody Eakin after a faceoff and fell awkwardly, with his helmet slamming on the ice. He was knocked out and bleeding on the ice. His head wound would take eight staples to seal and his was badly concussed.
That play led to a major penalty that the Sharks converted into four power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and help carry San Jose into the second round where his teammates vowed to extend the season long enough for Pavelski to return.
On Wednesday night, Pavelski took less than six minutes to provide more than just inspiration. He deflected Brent Burns’ point shot past Avs goalie Philipp Grubauer for the opening goal of the game and celebrated with an exaggerated fist pump.
Pavelski then set up Tomas Hertl with a pass from behind the net to make it 2-0 midway through the period and drew a penalty that nearly led to a power-play goal later in the period as the Avalanche struggled early.
“It was nice to get in there and feel some production early,” he said of his first period impact.
Pavelski said he really began thinking he was nearing his return to the ice after Game 5.
“I started feeling better after Game 5,” he told reporters. “We started skating a little bit. I traveled with the team. Got some good workouts in, some good skates. So I had confidence that I could get back. You never really know. I haven’t had many concussions throughout my years and so they are all a little different. I’ve felt good for a little while now.”
The Sharks open their conference finals series against St. Louis Saturday night at the SAP Center.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.