It was the loudest sigh of relief you'll hear.

It was exhaled by Sharks forward Patrick Marleau as he corralled a loose puck in the final seconds Thursday, wheeled around and cleared it from the defensive zone. And it was breathed in unison by his coaches, teammates and every San Jose fan.

The result was deafening, decibels not previously heard at the Shark Tank.

Fitting for what might be the most important win in franchise history.

"Getting the clear, hearing the crowd, then just watching as the final few seconds went off the clock ..." Marleau said, trailing off. That was his sigh-of-relief moment. That was the moment that will really stick with him.

Not his goal at 12:13 in the third period, which gave San Jose a 3-1 lead and turned out to be the game-winner after Pavel Datsyuk reduced Detroit's deficit to 3-2 less than two minutes later.

Marleau said he'll remember that one. "How did the game-winner feel?" he was asked. "The series-clincher," he corrected, "felt great."

But not like he'll remember that final clear. It was a moment in which so much changed, for this franchise and its defining player.

People won't be so quick to label the Sharks "chokers" in the future. Not after they came through in a Game 7 to win what longtime NHL followers and scribes were calling one of the best playoff series they'd seen.

And people won't be so quick to point to Marleau as the focal point of San Jose's playoff disappointments. Not after he scored the winner, cleared the puck to end the final threat from the empty-netted Red Wings and made a half-dozen good defensive plays on top, including tying up open Red Wings in front of the net with the puck headed their way twice in the final minutes.

"It's right up there," with the top wins of his career, said Marleau, whose career includes winning a gold medal at last year's Olympics. "It's a feeling that'll last. I'm going to take it all in for a little bit."