San Jose captain Joe Pavelski, who missed the first six games of the Western Conference semifinals, had a goal and an assist as the host Sharks defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in Game 7 on Wednesday night to advance the West finals.
Tomas Hertl also had a goal and an assist, and Joonas Donskoi scored what proved to be the winner for the Sharks, who will meet the St. Louis Blues in the conference final. San Jose goaltender Martin Jones made 27 saves.
Game 1 against the Blues is scheduled for Saturday in San Jose.
Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost scored for the Avalanche, and goalie Philipp Grubauer stopped 24 of 27 shots.
Pavelski, whose head hit the ice after being cross-checked following a faceoff in Game 7 of the Sharks' first-round series against Vegas, made his series debut Wednesday and opened the scoring at 5:57 of the first period, tipping Brent Burns' shot from the point past Grubauer.
Pavelski then fed Hertl from behind the net for a goal at 11:35 of the opening period, giving the Sharks an early 2-0 lead.
"To come out and score early... I felt a lot of emotion there for sure," Pavelski told NBCSN afterward. "Scored a few like those over the years. Got back and there were all smiles on the bench. It was Game 7, a big game. "
The Avalanche played most of the first period without their star, Nathan MacKinnon, who slammed awkwardly into the boards just outside the San Jose blue line less than two minutes into the game.
MacKinnon grabbed at his right shoulder before skating to the bench. He returned with five minutes left in the period, and that seemed to spark Colorado, as Rantanen tipped a point shot by Samuel Girard past Jones with 6.8 seconds left in the first to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Avalanche appeared to tie the score at 7:46 of the second, as Derick Brassard stole the puck just outside the Sharks' blue line and chipped it into the offensive zone. MacKinnon tracked down the puck in the right corner and fed Colin Wilson, whose one-timer beat Jones.
San Jose coach Peter DeBoer challenged the play, claiming Colorado was offside. After a lengthy review, officials determined that Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who was at the bench waiting for the door to open while coming off on a line change, was still in the offensive zone and did not touch the blue line with his skate before the puck entered the zone.
That made Landeskog offside, and the goal was disallowed.
"I was just as surprised as anybody," Landeskog told reporters of the play. "I came off and two seconds later we score. Obviously, I was still on the ice. We saw some replays on the bench. From what we saw, it could have gone either way. I don't know if I've seen that before. It's a clumsy mistake. I've got to get off the ice.
"I think there was a lot more to the game than just that."
Donskoi scored at 12:37 of the second, skating behind the net with the puck before wheeling and firing a wrist shot through Landeskog's legs and past Grubauer from the bottom of the left faceoff circle, restoring San Jose's two-goal lead.
Jost pulled the Avalanche within 3-2 just 51 seconds into the third, corralling a rebound and scoring on a backhander.
Colorado, which had been outshot 25-14 through the first two periods, had a 15-2 edge in the third but was unable to tie the score.
"They played a great game against us, scoring in the first minute of the third period to keep the pressure on," Pavelski said. "To go to the conference finals, it's special."
The Avalanche went 0-for-3 on the power play and finished just 2-for-23 with the man-advantage in the series.
"I don't even want to talk about the offside call, it is what it is," Colorado head coach Jared Bednar told reporters. "Our season is over, so it's tough. We set high expectations for ourselves and came up a little short."
--Field Level Media