It's been an on-going problem for a long time: the San Jose Sharks' inability to close out third-period leads has cost them for almost three years now, and the same problem cost the team a potential win on Monday night in Anaheim against a hated division foe.
The Sharks took a 1-0 lead into the third period on the road last night against the Ducks, and they proceeded to give up two goals to lose the game, 2-1. It was San Jose's first regulation loss of the year, and the first time the Sharks failed to pick up at least a point in a game this season, as well.
And it hurt the team in the Pacific Division standings, as San Jose (7-1-1) and Anaheim (6-1-1) are at the top of the standings, just two points apart.
So the Sharks' perfect start to the season after seven games has been reduced to almost nothing, and the scoring machine that generated 23 goals in the first five games has scored only six times in the last four games.
Part of the reality here is that the defensive players are coming together with their teammates now to close those holes that were there early in the season after an abbreviated training camp and long layoff from the lockout.
But the third-period inability to close the door on an opponent damaged the Sharks dearly in the 2011 postseason against Detroit and Vancouver, and it helped eliminate the team last year, too, against St. Louis.
Considering this third-period plague has also hampered the team in the last two regular seasons as well, it's still a sore subject for the Sharks going forward as they face the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at HP Pavilion, trying to stop the losing streak.
Admittedly, the Ducks tied the game last night on a fluke bounce that caught goaltender Thomas Greiss off guard, and the winning goal was scored on a deflection, but the lack of focus and even the slightest moment of relaxation seems to always bite San Jose in the final 20 minutes of games where they have leads.
Chicago's 7-0-2 start has them one point ahead of the Sharks in the Western Conference, so beating the Blackhawks tonight -- and playing well in the third period -- will go a long way towards getting San Jose back on the right track in 2013.