Ryan O'Reilly was credited with a fluke goal in the first minute of overtime and Craig Anderson stopped all 51 shots he faced as the Colorado Avalanche outlasted the San Jose Sharks for a 1-0 home victory in Game 3 on Sunday night.
San Jose defenceman Dan Boyle misfired on a backhanded pass to teammate Doug Murray — who was behind the net — with his attempt catching a piece of O'Reilly's stick and the puck finding its way between the near post and Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov for a shocking end to the game.
"I'd like to say I've seen my fair share of hockey, but once in awhile you see an ending like that and we'll obviously take it," said Avalanche coach Joe Sacco.
Anderson put in one of the great performances in recent NHL playoff history, with San Jose outshooting the Avalanche 42-7 in the second and third periods.
"When you work hard and you stay positive, good results happen and you get the lucky bounces," Anderson said. "It's remarkable."
The goal made O'Reilly, barely 19, the unlikely recipient of a goal that put Colorado up 2-1 in the series and added yet another bitter blow for a core Sharks group that has suffered repeated playoff disappointments despite glowing regular season records in recent years.
"Overall, they outplayed us today," O'Reilly said. "Andy kept us in it. Andy deserved this one."
Neither Patrick Marleau nor Joe Thornton of the Sharks could mark their first goal of the playoffs despite a combined eight shots.
San Jose, without Dany Heatley in the lineup, couldn't connect on six power-play chances.
Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Clowe were held scoreless despite firing eight shots apiece on Anderson.
"We didn't beat their goalie, we found a way to beat ours. It's unfortunate. We've been beat by some bad bounces in the series, but I expect our will and our character to come through and try and overcome it," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan.
McLellan said that Heatley is expected back for Game 4, which will take place in Denver on Tuesday night on Hockey Night Canada (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).
Heatley's place in the lineup was taken by Dwight Helemin.
Playoff hockey made a return to Pepsi Center for the first time in two years, and the fans were upset early when TJ Galiardi was sent into the net after contact from Sharks forward Joe Pavelski, one of San Jose's heroes in Game 2. No penalty was called.
The Avalanche also were without a key veteran when Milan Hejduk left early in the first with an undisclosed injury.
Nabokov, shaky in the previous game, made a strong pad save with Cody McLeod alone on his doorstep.
San Jose was playing a conservative road game early on but began to press later in the first period.
Setoguchi, who scored the Game 2 overtime winner, was twice denied by Anderson. Teammate Dan Boyle blasted a shot from the right point in the final minute that was kicked away by the Avalanche netminder.
Colorado's Ryan Stoa, in the lineup for injured Kevin Porter, had two whacks at breaking the scoreless tie before he left the game with an undisclosed injury.
"I thought in the first period it was pretty even and then the last 30 minutes you're killing penalty after penalty," said Sacco. "We had lost two players by then, so we were down numbers and, obviously, our goalie was outstanding tonight."
Sacco was incensed midway through the second period when a scrum between the teams resulted in his team going down a man.Patrick Marleau and the San Jose Sharks threw everything at Colorado goalie Craig Anderson in Game 3. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)
Marleau, criticized by former teammate Jeremy Roenick for underperforming in the playoffs, was stopped at the side of net and in the final minute of the second hit the post from a sharp angle.
The teams had close calls with nearly six minutes left in the second. Anderson almost got caught out of position on a San Jose dump-in and was forced to make a save while Nabokov stretched low to get the glove on Matt Duchene's re-direction.
On the next shift, Galiardi skated in alone on Nabokov but stickhandled himself out of position to get a clear shot.
Paul Stastny had two good chances in the second period but missed the net, a common affliction for the Avalanche, who were outshot 21-3 in the frame.
The Sharks continued pressing in the third, although many of their shots came from the outside.
Colorado went more than 10 minutes during one span without registering a shot, but with nine minutes left in the third, Nabokov got his pad on a puck that was headed for McLeod's stick in the crease.
Thornton teed up a shot at the other end for Setoguchi, whose wrister hit Anderson's left pad.
The Avalanche were under great strain with six minutes left in the third on a sequence that saw Anderson get just enough of his arm on Marleau's strong bid.
Colorado defenceman Kyle Quincey took a cross-checking penalty during the barrage, and the Sharks threw everything at net. Boyle and Rob Blake couldn't get the puck across from long range, while Avalanche veteran Adam Foote batted a puck that was headed into the net out of harm's way.
Quincey then blocked a shot on another San Jose power play to atone for his earlier mistake.
Jed Ortmeyer of the Sharks and Colorado's Brandon Yip each missed by inches with less than two minutes left, resulting in overtime.
Colorado forward Kyle Cumiskey started the sequence that led to the winner, sending the puck in deep.
"I was too focused," said Nabokov. "I'm watching the puck … [Boyle] hits the puck, it's supposed to go around [the net], my eyes go around the net and all of sudden it's a shot and it goes in."
Nabokov finished with 16 saves.