Joonas Donskoi only played four seasons with the San Jose Sharks, but his place in team history is secure.
Between the regular season and playoffs, Donskoi scored a combined 54 goals for the Sharks from 2015 to 2019, none bigger than his overtime goal in Game 3 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Donskoi took a pass from Chris Tierney, created some space between himself and Evgeni Malkin as he went behind the Penguins net, turned around, and fired a shot under the crossbar and over the right shoulder of goalie Matt Murray, giving San Jose a 3-2 win.
Donskoi, now 31, announced his retirement on Sunday, saying he was thinking about his own health after experiencing multiple concussions over his seven-year NHL career.
“It is extremely hard to let go of something you have put your whole life into,” Donskoi wrote, “but at this point, I know it’s the right decision for my own well-being and future.”
Donskoi will always be thought of as the author of one of the Sharks’ most memorable goals, one that gave San Jose its first-ever victory in a Cup final game.
Where does it rank among the biggest goals in Sharks’ history? Here’s my top 10 list in descending order.
HONORABLE MENTION: Evgeni Nabokov, March 10, 2002, General Motors Place — With the Sharks already leading 6-4 and the Vancouver Canucks having pulled their goalie, San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov saw an opportunity. So after he collected a Markus Naslund dump-in, he lifted a shot from a few feet in front of his crease that landed on the Canucks’ blue line before it slid into the empty net. It even made Darryl Sutter smile.
10. KELLY KISIO, Oct. 11, 1991, Cow Palace – Four days after Craig Coxe scored the first goal in Sharks history, Kelly Kisio scored what would be the team’s first game-winning goal. On a Sharks power play, Brian Mullen skated toward the net and put a shot on Calgary Flames goalie Rick Wamsley. The rebound came to Kisio at the side of the net, and his goal broke a 3-3 tie and led to San Jose’s first win as a franchise in front of a delirious home crowd.
9. JAMIE BAKER, April 5, 1994, Great Western Forum – The Sharks were in a spot where they only needed one win in their last five games to clinch the franchise’s first-ever playoff spot. Jamie Baker made it happen, as his goal at the 15:05 mark of the second period proved to be the winner in a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. It was also San Jose’s first-ever win at the Forum.
San Jose Sharks’ Jeremy Roenick (27) and teammates Matthew Lombardi (18) Christian Erhoff (10) and Joe Thornton (19) celebrate a first-period goal against the Calgary Flames in game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. on April 22, 2008. (David M. Barreda/Mercury News) David M. Barreda/Bay Area News Group
8. JEREMY ROENICK, April 22, 2008, HP Pavilion – Game 7s are usually the most memorable and Jeremy Roenick had one for the ages in the first round of the 2008 playoffs against Calgary. Roenick assisted on the first Sharks goal by Joe Thornton, then scored the second to tie the game 2-2 at the 6:04 mark of the second period. Then, with the Sharks on the power play a few minutes later, Roenick put a shot on net that was stopped by Miikka Kiprusoff but hustled to collect the rebound, scoring what was then his 53rd career playoff goal as the Sharks took a 3-2 lead. They never trailed again as the Sharks advanced to the second round with a 5-3 victory.
7. PATRICK MARLEAU, May 4, 2010, Joe Louis Arena – Three years after losing a second-round series to Detroit they probably should have won, the Sharks faced the Red Wings again in the conference semifinals. The favored Sharks led the series 2-0 and came from behind in Game 3 to force overtime. Then, on a Sharks 2-on-1, Patrick Marleau redirected a perfect Thornton pass past goalie Jimmy Howard, giving San Jose a 3-0 series lead. The Sharks would win the series in five games, advancing to their second-ever conference final.
6. RAY WHITNEY, May 19, 1995, Olympic Saddledome – The Sharks took the heavily favored Calgary Flames to a seventh game in the opening round of the 1995 playoffs. In Game 7, the visiting Sharks held a two-goal lead late in the third period before the Flames rallied to tie the game and send it into overtime. Then, at the 1:54 mark of the extra session, Ray Whitney, standing to the left of Calgary’s net, redirected a shot from Sergei Makarov past goalie Trevor Kidd to give the Sharks a 5-4 win and a stunning first-round series victory for the second straight year.
5. PATRICK MARLEAU, May 12, 2011, HP Pavilion – The Sharks totally coughed up a 3-0 series lead to the Red Wings in the second round of the 2011 playoffs, setting up a do-or-die Game 7 in San Jose. The Sharks were clinging to a 2-1 lead in the third period when Dan Boyle started a 3-on-2. He passed to Devin Setoguchi, whose shot was stopped by Howard. But Marleau went to the net and scored on the rebound, a goal that proved to be the game and series-winner.
4. OWEN NOLAN, April 25, 2000, Kiel Center – The Sharks were the Western Conference’s eighth seed in the 2000 playoffs and took on the No. 1 St. Louis Blues in the first round. In the decisive Game 7, the Sharks held a one-goal lead late in the second period when Owen Nolan skated toward center ice and let go of a blistering slap shot from just past the red line that bounced off a handcuffed Roman Turek and into the Blues net.
The goal proved to be the winner as the Sharks pulled off the upset with a 3-1 win, as they earned their first playoff series win in five years. Nolan had six goals and two assists in the series, averaging over 22 minutes per game.
3. JOONAS DONSKOI, June 4, 2016, SAP Center – The Sharks had lost their first two games of the Cup final to Pittsburgh by one goal and it appeared they might be on their way to another close defeat as they trailed by one early in the third period. Then Joel Ward scored his seventh goal of the playoffs at the 8:48 mark of the third to help send the game into overtime.
Donskoi had shown to be a valuable playoff performer that year, with six goals and six assists in 24 games as he averaged over 15 minutes of ice time as a middle-six forward. Still, his Game 3 goal, and Martin Jones’ 44-save performance in Game 5, will serve as the Sharks’ best memories of that first-ever Cup final appearance for the franchise, and the image of Donskoi raising his arms before he is mobbed by his teammates won’t soon be forgotten.
2. BARCLAY GOODROW, April 23, 2019, SAP Center – The most memorable game in Sharks playoff history ended on one of the team’s most memorable goals. The Sharks trailed their 2019 opening-round playoff series with the Vegas Golden Knights three games to one, then trailed by three goals with less than 11 minutes left in the third period of Game 7. But San Jose scored four unanswered power-play goals after Cody Eakin was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a cross-check on Joe Pavelski.
The Golden Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault scored with 43 seconds left in regulation to send the game into sudden-death overtime. But then, after 18 minutes of OT, Barclay Goodrow took a pass from Erik Karlsson, skated toward the Vegas net, stickhandled around goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, and scored to give the Sharks an unforgettable 5-4 victory.
The Sharks would advance to the Western Conference Final before losing to the St. Louis Blues. But the Joe Thornton-era Sharks at least got to experience one more playoff run together before it all fell apart.
1. JAMIE BAKER, April 30, 1994, Joe Louis Arena – After two trying seasons at the Cow Palace, the Sharks bulked up their roster in 1993 for their first season at gleaming San Jose Arena. They made the playoffs as the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed with a staggering 58-point improvement over the previous year and faced the top-seeded Red Wings in the first round.
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The Wings flattened the Sharks 7-1 in San Jose in Game 6 to even the series 3-3, and logic dictated that Detroit would carry that momentum into Game 7 and roll into the second round. The Sharks, though, scored the game’s opening two goals before the Red Wings tied the game in the second period. Then, in the third period, a thunderbolt.
Detroit goalie Chris Osgood came well out of his net to clear the puck away from a forechecking Ray Whitney. The puck, though, went off the boards and right to Jamie Baker, whose slap shot found the open net with 6:35 left in the third period. Goalie Arturs Irbe handled things from there, as the Sharks completed the shocking first-round upset.
After two years of being the NHL’s doormat, the Sharks’ series win helped to legitimize the team and bolster its popularity — and credibility – in the Bay Area and beyond. That’s why it should be considered it the biggest goal in Sharks franchise history.
Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood bows his head after San Jose Sharks’ Jamie Baker scored what turned out to be the winning goal during the seventh game of the Western Conference Playoffs on Saturday, April 30, 1994 in Detroit. Osgood, the 21-year-old rookie goalie, felt he was responsible for allowing the upstart Sharks to skate off with a 3-2 victory eliminating the Red Wings from the NHL Playoffs after just one round. (AP Photo/John Discher)