They beat the demons, the Detroit Red Wings and just about anything else and anybody else you want to name.

Patrick Marleau scored the game-winner and made a potential game-saving hit, Joe Thornton controlled the pace of play, and the Sharks won the big game, with their big players, when the air was thin and the walls were pressing in on them.

Marleau and Thornton. Yes.

If it wasn't absolute playoff redemption, it was the closest thing available at the moment for the Sharks' two most talented, and often most frustrating, players.

Of course, Marleau and Thornton weren't the only reasons the Sharks won Game 7 of this incredible, unexplainable series.

But when it was over Thursday night, everybody in the Sharks locker room was looking at Thornton and Marleau -- just as everybody in the arena and around the continent was looking at them while everything was in doubt.

Everything in doubt: The entire game, the entire series and maybe this entire era of Sharks hockey, focusing in on two players.

And the Sharks won. They can exhale now. They can tell their critics (hello!) to be silent. They earned it.

"I think we're kind of proud of each other," Thornton said of the team in general after the Sharks staved off Detroit's frantic blitz at the end of the 3-2 victory. "There's a lot of doubters that said we probably couldn't do this.