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Pavelski returns, leads the Sharks to a Game 7 win, Western Conference Finals

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Joe Pavelski’s return ended in a Sharks 3-2 Game 7 victory over the Colorado Avalanche to advance to the Western Conference finals.

The captain propelled the Sharks to an early 2-0 lead, scoring the opening goal then assisting on the second goal.

Joonas Donskoi’s eventual game-winner in the second period was reminiscent of his overtime goal in Game 3 of 2016 Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, as he circled the net to score top corner.

Pavelski’s impact was felt just six minutes into the game, when he did what he does best. From the slot, the team captain deflected Brent Burns’ shot to score the opening goal.

Six minute later, more offensive zone possession led to San Jose’s second goal. Evander Kane’s shot was sent high by Colorado goalie Philipp Grubauer. Kane collected the rebound in the corner and sent it to Pavelski behind the net. Pavelski’s quick centering pass was one-timed by Tomas Hertl for the 2-0 lead.

With seven seconds left until the first intermission, Gabriel Landeskog skated behind the Sharks net and passed to Samuel Girard at the point. Girard’s wrist shot was deflected by Mikko Rantenan to cut the Sharks lead to 2-1.

With 12:11 left in the second period, the Avalanche appeared to tie the game when Colin Wilson one-timed Nathan MacKinnon’s pass, but the goal was called back due to an offside coaches challenge.

Landeskog, the offender, was on his way off the ice on a shift change. He had both skates in the Colorado offensive zone before Wilson and MacKinnon crossed the blue line, and he remained on the ice, in the zone, for four seconds until after the goal was scored

The Sharks maintained the one-goal lead.

Another shift of grinding in the Colorado zone lead to the Sharks’ third goal. Melkor Karlsson took a hit to send the puck back around the Colorado net. From the point, Burns sent a pass off the boards for Donskoi to collect. Donskoi wheeled around the Colorado net, turning around to pick the corner for the 3-1 lead. Donskoi’s broke his 39-game goal drought in a timely fashion, scoring the game-winner.

In the third period, Colorado outplayed San Jose at every turn, putting 15 shots on goal. When Marc-Edouard Vlasic could not clear a rebound in the opening minute, Tyson Jost easily backhanded in the Avalanche’s second goal. With the Sharks lead cut to 3-2, the pressure was on as Colorado put six more shots on goal and drew a penalty by Couture.

The Sharks did not get a shot on goal until 10 minutes into the period and only put two shots on Grubauer in the entire third period.

In the final two minutes, Colorado kept the foot on the gas. With Grubauer pulled for an extra skater, the Avalanche continued to put shots on goal. With 50 seconds left, Jones stonewalled Kerfoot trying to jam the puck home. The Sharks survived the late game rally, winning 3-2.

The Sharks will play the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Finals, starting inside SAP Center on Saturday at 5 p.m.

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