SAN JOSE, Calif. -- This was the character San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan was referring to prior to the start of his team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Colorado Avalanche.
Just when it appeared the Sharks would head to Denver down 2-0 and be on the verge of yet another postseason failure, Joe Pavelski erased a 5-4 deficit in the final minute of regulation before Devin Setoguchi scored on the power play at 5:22 of overtime as the Sharks evened the series in a wild 6-5 victory at HP Pavilion on Friday night.
After having two potential goals waved off in the third period, the Sharks finally got the equalizer with 31.3 seconds left in regulation. With Evgeni Nabokov off for an extra attacker, Pavelski tied the game when he fired Dany Heatley's rebound past Craig Anderson for his first goal of the playoffs.
"We had to overcome a lot," Pavelski said. "It's a strong group in here. It's important that we stay with it."
Setoguchi won it early in the extra session with his second goal of the night. With Avs captain Adam Foote in the box serving an interference penalty, Setoguchi redirected Ryane Clowe's shot past Craig Anderson to finish off what could prove to be one of the biggest wins in the history of the franchise.
"A lot of character tonight," McLellan said. "It wasn't about skating faster or making passes or anything like that. It was the will to go out and win. Had we not won, I probably would be telling you the same thing."
Fortunately for the Sharks, they did win. Had they lost, all the talk for the next 48 hours would have revolved around the franchise's inability to come up big when it matters the most.
"You never want to go down two in a series," said Setoguchi, who has three points in the first two games. "We're back to even. We go in there and we've got to make sure we stick to our game plan. It's going to be a tough rink to play in. We've just got to go in and play our game."
Chris Stewart scored twice and Brandon Yip had a goal and two assists for the Avs, who will host Game 3 on Sunday night. Anderson allowed all six goals but made 46 saves as the Sharks outshot the Avs 52-22.
"They shot the puck more," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said when asked what the biggest difference was between Games 1 and 2. "They put more shots on net tonight. It must have been a part of their game plan."
San Jose survived a shaky performance by Nabokov, who stopped only 17 shots. He faced only four in the second period -- and three found the back of the net.
The Avalanche needed all of 70 seconds to get on the scoreboard on a goal that was credited to defenseman Kyle Cumiskey. With the Avs pressing, Sharks' defenseman Rob Blake tried to clear a puck in front of the net, but his attempt hit defense partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic before trickling over the goal line as Colorado grabbed an early 1-0 lead.
"I'm sure a lot of people were going, 'There we go again,'" Nabokov said. "I hope this will give us momentum. I think we showed the team's spirit."
Manny Malhotra tied the game on the power play with 41.2 seconds left in the first. After the Avs were whistled for having too many men on the ice, Malhotra banged Dan Boyle's rebound past Anderson to make it 1-1. Anderson was brilliant in the first, stopping San Jose's first 18 shots before Malhotra finally solved him. The Sharks went 1-for-3 on the power play and outshot the Avs 19-6 in the opening period.
"That's the way it has to happen," McLellan said of scoring the not-so-fancy goals. "If you think you're getting the pretty, tic-tac-toe, finesse (goals), we'll be lucky if we get one like that this series. It has to be grind-them-out, get-to-the-paint type goals."
The momentum didn't carry into the second, as Stewart scored just 24 seconds into the period to give the Avs a 2-1 lead. Stewart was the beneficiary of a brilliant heads-up play by Anderson, who sent him in on a breakaway with a gorgeous two-line pass. Stewart then fired a wrister past Nabokov for his second goal in as many games.
Blake tied the game at 3:43 when he took a pass from Joe Thornton and one-timed it past Anderson to make it 2-2, but Colorado regained the lead only 25 seconds later when Milan Hejduk one-timed Matt Duchene's feed past Nabokov for the Avs' third goal on just eight shots.
But San Jose once again tied it as Setoguchi scored at 7:10 with his first goal of the playoffs. Just moments after a timeout, Setoguchi seized control of the puck from Avs defenseman Scott Hannan and flipped a shot over Anderson to make it 3-3.
Colorado took a 4-3 lead with 2:30 left in the second when Yip poked Duchene's rebound past Nabokov, but the Sharks managed to tie the game before the end of the period. After John-Michael Liles' clearing attempt took an awkward bounce off the side boards, Scott Nichol seized control of Jed Ortmeyer's rebound before Anderson could cover it up and backhanded it home to make it 4-4 with 14.5 seconds left. San Jose outshot Colorado 10-4 in the second.
"That was nice," said Nichol, who scored his first playoff goal in 12 career games. "It's an easy game playing with those guys. We all can skate real well so we can get in on the forecheck."
Stewart put Colorado back in front with his second goal of the night when he took a pass from Paul Stastny and ripped a wrister from the right circle that beat Nabokov to the far side at 5:34 of the third. It was almost enough to win -- but the Sharks refused to lose.
"Everybody showed up to play tonight," McLellan said. "We're going to have to overcome from this day forward."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
Shift of the Game: Hoping to erase any momentum grabbed by the Sharks, the trio of Milan Hejduk, Matt Duchene and Brandon Yip did just that when they gave the Avalanche a 3-2 lead at 4:08 of the second period. The tally came just 25 seconds after Rob Blake had tied the game for San Jose. Hejduk notched his second goal of the night when he one-timed Duchene's nice feed past Evgeni Nabokov.