San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan has been unhappy with a lot more than just his team's inability to score of late.
The Sharks likely will need a much better performance at home Wednesday night to slow the surging Dallas Stars, who are seeking a third straight victory.
San Jose (35-16-6) has dropped four of five following a six-game win streak, scoring just four non-shootout goals in that stretch. After beating Chicago 2-1 in the tiebreaker Saturday, San Jose allowed four third-period goals in Monday's 5-2 loss to Philadelphia.
Antti Niemi was pulled after giving up three scores in the first 3:56 of the third after the Sharks entered the final 20 minutes with a one-goal advantage.
"It's a team-wide issue and, yeah, (Niemi) has to stop some of those," McLellan said. "It's as simple as that. Even in the second period, we weren't the better team. We were playing with fire. It was a matter of time. If we continued to play that way, we were going to get burnt and we did."
Matt Nieto scored twice in the first period, including one on the power play that ended the Sharks' 0-for-16 slump with the man advantage. Things just got worse from there.
"When you get outworked and get outnumbered all over the rink, you're going to lose," McLellan said. "They worked harder than we were in all facets of the game - the goaltender, the blue line, 5-on-5, special teams. They were just the better team. It's disappointing."
San Jose is 6-0-1 in its last seven home meetings with the Stars, who improved to 12-2-2 against the Pacific Division with Tuesday's 3-1 win over Phoenix.
Antoine Roussel scored the go-ahead goal in the third for Dallas (26-21-9), which is 5-1-1 in its last seven.
"We've been playing hard every night, using our speed," said Ryan Garbutt, who assisted on Roussel's goal and added an empty netter. "Everyone has been playing to the best of their abilities and having fun at the same time."
The Stars are looking to head into the Olympic break on a roll while gaining ground in the Western Conference playoff race. They pulled within two points of Vancouver, which holds the conference's final wild-card spot.
"We knew that was one of the biggest games of the year," Roussel said. "We didn't start the way we wanted, but the third period was really good for us and we got away with the win. The last 10 minutes we locked it down and didn't give them much."
Kari Lehtonen made 26 saves Tuesday to end a two-start skid, but Dan Ellis is likely to get the nod against San Jose in the second of a back-to-back set. Ellis, 3-4-0 with a 3.43 goals-against average in seven career starts against the Sharks, blanked Anaheim 2-0 on Saturday in his last start.
Niemi went 6-2-0 with a 1.83 GAA in his previous eight starts prior to Monday's loss, and he could be in net again for this contest. He's 7-2-3 with a 2.05 GAA in his last 12 starts against Dallas.
The first two meetings between these teams have gone to a shootout, with the Sharks and Stars each winning on home ice.
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