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Las Vegas hockey fans bear witness to another Easter Epic

Updated April 22, 2019 - 5:19 pm

Two truths about overtime hockey were made even more self-evident during San Jose’s exasperating 2-1 victory over the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday afternoon. And evening.

The first was that New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz was right about the importance of staying hydrated in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The second is that when it comes to overtime and postseason drama, the NHL is Carly Simon singing about James Bond in “The Spy Who Loved Me.”

Nobody does it better.

Building tension

Baseball often does a nice job creating drama and tension during the playoffs and World Series and even with one out in the top of the seventh of a one-game playoff to decide the 1978 American League East championship. But when the Yankees’ Bucky Dent lofted a three-run pop fly over the Green Monster, the Red Sox still had 2½ innings to mount a comeback.

When the visiting team scores first in baseball overtime, the home team does not suffer a sudden death.

In football, a coin flip often decided who would win in overtime. Somewhere on a frozen pond, Gordie Howe laughed in derision. Now each side gets to possess the ball at least once. Slow-Death Overtime just isn’t the same.

In basketball, five minutes are added to the clock. Yes, it was exciting when “Havlicek Stole the Ball” for the Celtics in the 1965 NBA Eastern Division finals. But had Havlicek or Bill Russell or even Larry Siegfried scored another basket during the first 4:55, it wouldn’t have been necessary.

In golf, Tiger Woods’ victory over Bob May on the third playoff hole for the 2000 PGA Championship was sublime and mesmerizing. But when Tiger or even Bob May hits one stiff, you can usually tell it is a good shot.

Rewind to Sunday. When the Knights went on the power play (!) and the Sharks’ Tomas Hertl plodded toward the Vegas end on spaghetti-noodle legs, there was no way to know his nondescript shot would elude Marc-Andre Fleury for the game-winner.

Jumbo reaction

Unless you are like Paul Giamatti’s character in “Billions” and practice sadomasochism, you probably did not watch the replay and see Joe Thornton’s expression on the San Jose bench. Thornton is 39 and looks older, like he should be fixing wagon wheels in Amish country. He also is the Ernie Banks of hockey, the highest-scoring active player who has never won the Stanley Cup.

After Hertl scored, Thornton looked like Jim Valvano trying to find somebody to hug after North Carolina State beat Houston for the 1983 NCAA basketball championship on Lorenzo Charles’ dunk.

A similar Easter weekend hockey game in 1987, in which the Islanders beat the Capitals on April 18 and 19, is recalled.

The game took two days to play. When I left my apartment seeking hydration on Saturday night, they still were playing hockey in Landover, Maryland. Same for when I returned Sunday morning after last call. At 8:47 of the fourth overtime, New York’s Pat LaFontaine fired a shot over the glove of Washington goalie Bob Mason, finally ending the Easter Epic.

It might have happened in the first 10 seconds of overtime.

It might have happened the following Tuesday.

Same with Tomas Hertl’s goal against the Golden Knights that sent local fans into despair or onto social media to write something profound.

More hydration needed

“Unreal game got the unreal ending it deserves, just not the one #Vegasborn wanted,” wrote Adam Candee.

Candee is mostly known as the radio voice of the UNLV women’s basketball team, which in its own way speaks volumes about the drama and tension engendered by overtime playoff hockey. You needn’t have grown up near a frozen pond to feel the intrigue.

So the teams will meet again in Game 7 on Tuesday night.

It’s probably too much to expect two more overtimes, and with all respect due San Jose goaltender Martin Jones, for Vegas defensemen Jon Merrill and Colin Miller to make the save of the night with their knees and skates, and for Miller to make a snow angel in the crease because he thought it might keep the puck from crossing the line.

But that’s what the hockey poets are pining for.

Pass the Aquafina.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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