A healthy scratch in Game 6, Jeremy Roenick stole the spotlight and, ultimately, the series for the San Jose Sharks with a sensational performance in Game 7.
Roenick made a triumphant return to the lineup with two goals and two assists as the Sharks skated to a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night, clinching the Western Conference quarter-final in the maximum seven games.
"This is what we play for, as athletes and as hockey players," Roenick told CBC Sports.
"You want to be the guy they look to. The opportunity to get back in and help this team, I was excited about it."
Roenick nearly notched a hat trick, but Flames netminder Curtis Joseph smothered his slapshot on a 3-on-1 break with five minutes remaining.
"He is a big-time player," Sharks captain Patrick Marleau told CBC Sports. "He has had some great Game 7s in the past — and he had a great one tonight."
Roenick, who has scored six times in six Game 7s, set up Joe Thornton's power-play goal 10:57 into the contest, tallied a pair of goals in a four-goal second period for the Sharks, and chalked up an assist on rookie David Setoguchi's first-ever playoff goal.
"I feel like I'm 19," said Roenick, 38. "You don't like to have the career that I have had and sit out a potential clinching game, so it was nice that I came back and contributed in this way."
Joe Pavelski had the other goal and Evgeni Nabokov kicked out 19 of 22 shots for the second-ranked Sharks, who clinched the Pacific Division with 108 points.
"This is why we work so darn hard to get home-ice advantage," Thornton told CBC Sports.
"For all the people who critiqued Joe [Thornton] or Patty [Marleau] or the whole organization, tonight was as dominant as a team could be in a seventh game," Sharks head coach Ron Wilson said. "Our team played its best hockey when it mattered most."
Jarome Iginla, Owen Nolan and Wayne Primeau scored for the seventh-seeded Flames, who forced the sudden-death showdown with a 2-0 win in Game 6 — marking the first time since Dec. 18 that the Sharks had been blanked.
Adrian Aucoin had two assists.
"We came into this game believing we were going to win," Iginla said. "We were up 2-1 in the second period and we didn't sustain it, didn't stay after them.
"In a game like that, it is not something we would have believed was going to happen. It is definitely numbing to be out."
Primeau's goal 5:18 into the third period trimmed Calgary's deficit to two goals, but the Flames were smothered by the Sharks the rest of the way, even when Joseph was pulled for an extra attacker in the final four minutes.
Joseph finished with 10 saves in relief of Miikka Kiprusoff, who surrendered four goals on 30 shots.
"Kipper didn't play very well," Flames head coach Mike Keenan said. "He just wasn't on tonight.
"They started the game with a strong push and our team didn't respond very well, especially when we had a 2-1 lead. We should have kicked it up a notch."
"The Flames put up an unbelievable fight," Roenick said. "You have to give them so much credit, so much praise."
Sharks strike first
Roenick sent a short pass to Jonathan Cheechoo and he whisked the puck through the crease to Thornton, who fired it into the open side for his second goal of the series and a 1-0 lead.
Kiprusoff got a piece of the puck with his trapper, but it wasn't enough to prevent it from entering the net.
Calgary responded in 82 seconds, also with the man advantage, as Aucoin angled his point shot away from the traffic in front and toward Iginla at the side of the net for the redirection.
It was Iginla's fourth goal and series-leading ninth point.
"I couldn't shoot short side because a guy was there," Aucoin told CBC Sports.
Nolan made it 2-1 Flames with a breakaway goal 3:33 into the second period, failing to score on a forehand deke, only to have the puck bank off his right leg and behind Nabokov for his third.
A hush fell over the crowd of 17,496 at HP Pavilion, but Roenick restored the roar with two goals in three minutes.
First, he beat Kiprusoff between the pads with a low shot that a screening Setoguchi swept at and missed.
Then, he flicked in his own rebound from a sharp angle after the initial shot caromed off Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr, who was checking Thornton in front.
"It was just a shot at the net and it came right back to me," Roenick said.
No sooner had Calgary killed off a penalty to Regehr than Pavelski swept in a loose puck from the slot to make it 4-1 at the 14:01 mark.
Kiprusoff was yanked in favour of Joseph, who looked awkward on a weak wrist shot from a spinning Setoguchi that put San Jose ahead 5-2 with 5:07 left in the period.
"We ignited their resolve," Keenan said. "They really turned it up and took control from there."
As seventh games go, it was Stephane Yelle's 11th, tops among active players, and Keenan's 10th, an NHL record for head coaches.