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San Jose beats Colorado in shootout after crazy third-period finish

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(SAN JOSE) -- Three goals in the final two minutes of regulation turned the SAP Center upside down and around again tonight as the San Jose Sharks and the Colorado Avalanche played a crazy game that pushed the limits of believability.

The Sharks took a 3-2 into the third period, and anyone who follows the team knows that is dangerous for San Jose. So when the Avs scored twice in 12 seconds with less than two minutes remaining, there was a collective groan at SAP.

But San Jose tied it up with just 20 seconds left on Joe Pavelski's 15th goal of the season, and the already-loud arena just exploded to achieve a noise level beyond comprehension.

The overtime shootout win for the Sharks was almost anticlimactic, as Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau both scored in the extra session to defeat the Avs, 5-4.

It was almost another one of those inexcusable losses for San Jose, however, and once again, the Sharks had to work too hard for their two points tonight. They remain in third place in the Pacific Division, but they did gain on the second-place Los Angeles Kings who lost tonight.

In addition to Pavelski's huge goal, the Sharks also got scores from Jason Demers on the power play, Brent Burns and Matt Irwin on another power play. Joe Thornton added three assists, and Antti Niemi made 29 saves -- not to mention stifling both Colorado shootout attempts.

Yet the elephant on the ice remains San Jose's inability to close out games effectively in the third period. The Avs clearly had no fear of the Sharks late in the game, and when Marleau conveniently gave them a power play with 3:55 left in the game, Colorado jumped all over that chance.

Technically, neither of the Avs' third-period scores was a special-teams goal, but Colorado was moving well enough to net those two late goals to take that brief 4-3 lead. If it wasn't for Pavelski and his clutch mentality, this would be yet another column lamenting yet another blown opportunity.

Living on the edge isn't the way to win in hockey any more. Maybe it worked for the 1993 Montreal Canadiens, but the 21st-century NHL is different, and if the Sharks don't start clamping down in the third, it's going to be the same old story in San Jose come summer time.

(No, this is not a recording.)

The Sharks are now off until Friday's road contest in Phoenix, before they return to SAP to face the first-place Anaheim Ducks on December 29.

They close out 2013 with a road rematch in Anaheim on New Year's Eve.

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