The San Jose Sharks took another lead into the third period on Monday night, and they left the SAP Center with another loss -- the same disturbing pattern that is very much a problem for the franchise dating back to the 2010-11 season, three years and counting now.
(Just Google this author's name, along with "Sharks", "third period", etc., if you don't know the story by now. It's too tiring to post all the backlinks.)
How does a team turn a 2-1 lead into a 5-2 loss in just 20 minutes?
- Just 1:11 into the third period, San Jose coughed up the lead. Matt Read scored his 15th goal of the year to tie the game at 2-2;
- Then, another 1:18 passed before the Sharks fell behind. Michael Raffl netted his sixth of the year to put the Flyers up, 3-2;
- And after 1:27 more had passed, Claude Giroux scored unassisted to give Philadelphia a two-goal lead.
Surrendering three goals in 2:45 when you had the lead on your home ice in the third period is not the way to win a Stanley Cup. Needless to say, starting goaltender Anti Niemi was pulled after that sequence, and while backup Alex Stalock also gave up a goal later in the period, it really didn't matter.
Niemi posted a 1.72 goals-against average in the first month of the season, but since then? He's been pretty bad. In 35 starts from November to now, the Sharks goalie has surrendered 89 goals.
His 47 starts are the most in the NHL, but it may be too much for him.
Either way, San Jose is terrible in the third period: it has the 12th-worst goals-against total in that period in the league, which isn't good when you're trying to win the first Stanley Cup in team history.
The Sharks are somewhat fortunate to be treading water right now, however, with both Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl out with injuries. Their scoring is down, and they're still hovering at the .500 mark over their last ten games.
San Jose is firmly entrenched in second place in the Pacific Division, nine points behind Anaheim and ten points ahead of Los Angeles. With two games left before the Olympic break, both at home, the Sharks can still generate some good momentum.
But they'll have to be better in the third period.