In the San Jose Sharks' 3-2 overtime shootout win at HP Pavilion on Tuesday night over the Colorado Avalanche, the home team once again took a lead into the third period they could not hold.
The desperately-need win and its two points in the standings -- the Sharks are back in a playoff spot currently, at No. 8 in the Western Conference -- mask this continuing issue for the San Jose squad.
They can't protect third-period leads.
This isn't a new issue: it goes back a long time, at least to February 2011. In fact, this flaw was the direct reason the Sharks didn't reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time ever that season.
And now it keeps happening in 2013, as well.
The rest of the National Hockey League knows they can beat the Sharks late in the game, which means San Jose needs to work extra hard in the third period to win -- something they still haven't quite mastered.
So when the Sharks win a game -- despite blowing another third-period lead -- it still hurts the team: five extra minutes on the ice, as well as their game fate being left to a coin-flip shootout, isn't what a Cup-contending team wants to deal with on a regular basis.
But the Sharks just don't have the killer instinct necessary to keep those third-period leads safe -- or win the Cup, as we all know.
With 21 points, San Jose is tied with the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference standings, although the Sharks have played only 18 games this year -- and Detroit has played 20.
Tonight, the two teams face off at HP Pavilion, and San Jose can't afford to let another third-period lead get away from them.