May 9 (UPI) -- San Jose captain Joe Pavelski made a successful return from a brutal head injury as the Sharks advanced to the Western Conference final with a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7.
Pavelski, who missed the Sharks' last six playoff games after his injury in Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights, scored a goal and tallied one assist in San Jose's series-clinching win Wednesday night.
"I got to watch these guys play for six games. They gave a lot of motivation for me," Pavelski told reporters. "They were there for me. I wanted to come out and give them a good game as well. There wasn't going to be one guy who won this game and there wasn't. It was a big group effort out there."
Pavelski got his stick on a shot that he redirected into the net for a 1-0 lead in the first period that the Sharks wouldn't relinquish. Later in the first, he assisted on Tomas Hertl's goal as San Jose stacked an early two-goal advantage.
"He played unbelievable for a guy that missed playoff action for two weeks," Sharks forward Logan Couture told reporters. "To have the injuries that he has, coming back, and set up a goal, scored a goal. I wish I could tell you what he's gone through from seeing it firsthand. You wouldn't believe that he's playing right now, let's just say that. He played unbelievable."
Joonas Donskoi ended his 39-game goal drought with a score in the second period. Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost had the Avs' goals in the contest.
The Sharks play the St. Louis Blues in the conference final. Game 1 is Saturday night in San Jose.