The San Jose Sharks scored a goal 4:49 into the third period of a scoreless game tonight at HP Pavilion, but anyone who watches this team knew the lead wasn't safe.
The Detroit Red Wings surely knew it -- they scored just 92 seconds later to tie the game, and they won it in the overtime shootout to once again remind the hockey world how poorly the Sharks play with a lead in the third period.
The 2-1 loss did give San Jose a point for the standings, however, but to lose -- again -- after giving up a third-period lead -- again -- just continues to remind fans this Sharks team has problems they haven't addressed for more than two years' running now.
And in this short season, every point in the standings matters. With tonight's game result, San Jose dropped from 8th to 9th in the Western Conference, while the Red Wings moved up from 9th to 4th.
That's the different the extra point can make.
Currently, there are 12 teams within six points in the standings. The more times San Jose fails to win in regulation after having a lead in the third period, the more points they're handing to opponents for just getting to overtime -- and the lost points they don't earn for the win hurt as well.
So it's a double-edged sword for this team's defensive breakdowns in the final frame that they're killing their own playoff chances with on a regular basis.
You'd think they'd want to fix that, but it just keeps happening over and over again.
The Sharks were outshot tonight (34-26), including a 17-10 edge for the Red Wings in the last 25 minutes of play. And again, giving up a goal so quickly after scoring a big one themselves just reinforces this team's lack of focus -- they don't keep pushing.
They simply expect the opponents to give up, perhaps, instead of forcing the other team to quit. Just another reason and sign why this always-talented Sharks squad can't win the big ones or find their way to the Stanley Cup.
Antti Niemi played well, but he does give up goals at the wrong times, no matter what the statistics show -- reminding Sharks fans, perhaps, of former goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, always one prone to the same lapses at the worst moments.
It may seem disingenuous to blame the goalie (and his 1.95 GAA or .930 save percentage) when his team can't score, but in the end, the other team won't win if they don't score, either.
Losing the shootout to the Red Wings tonight is like losing a coin flip, but the blowing of another third-period lead that could have -- should have, if they want to be a Cup-worthy team -- brought about a desperately-needed win in regulation?
Just unacceptable. Still. Always. Forever.