SAN JOSE, Calif. — Joe Pavelski‘s face was numb, but his spirits were high. The San Jose Sharks captain opened the scoring in Game 1 of the Sharks’ series against the Vegas Golden Knights, a goal that sparked them to an emphatic 5-2 victory on Wednesday night. But with the goal came some self-sacrifice: Namely a few of Pavelski’s teeth, as a Brent Burns shot bounced off his jaw and behind goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
“I feel all right,” said Pavelski after the game, his chin and bottom lip swelled over, blood visible on his bottom row of teeth. “But enough with the dental questions.”
At 14:42 of the first period, Pavelski was in his usual spot in front of the opponents’ crease. “I saw Burnsy had it. Sometimes there’s a shot. Sometimes there’s not. It kinda looked like he was trying to release it, and I didn’t even see it come off his stick,” he said.
Was this the most painful goal Pavelski ever scored?
“Yeah, I suppose. It didn’t feel good.”
He knew he lost a few teeth as he skated off to the Sharks trainers’ room, the crowd cheering loudly for the goal he scored off his face. He would enter the NHL’s concussion protocol and have his wounds stitched up, but Pavelski was never worried about having to leave the contest.
“You know, I think I knew right away. On my way to the bench, I knew I would be OK,” he said.
He missed the first moments of the second period, but skated back out wearing a large plastic chin guard on his helmet. It might have seemed like an emotional moment from the outside, but his teammates expected nothing less.
“We were pretty confident that he shakes off those kinds of things. He’s a leader. He does everything for the team,” said Sharks forward Timo Meier.
Nor did the Sharks believe Pavelski would shy away from going right back to the front of the net.
“It takes some balls to get in the paint again,” said forward Evander Kane.
Pavelski took regular shifts in skating 16:52 for the night, helping the Sharks take a 1-0 series lead.
“Tough as nails,” said his coach Peter DeBoer. “You take a puck to the face like that. Doesn’t go down. There’s no other word for it. He’s a warrior.”
The warrior was due to become the patient either Wednesday night or Thursday morning, to get his teeth fixed and to ensure his jaw was in good shape. Whatever the damage, it was worth it.
“We like to play this game. It’s playoff season. We want to play some playoff hockey. Something like that happens early, and you just want to get back out there as soon as you can,” Pavelski said.
“We earned that one. And that’s a good feeling.”