They've given up 15 final frame goals, most in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while scoring 11. If coffee is for closers, they've gone thirsty in 2011. These are problems that dip back into the middle of their semifinal series, and the trend has continued in the Western Conference Final, which opened with a 3-2 Vancouver victory.
In Game 5 against the Detroit Red Wings, they held a 3-1 lead 54 seconds into the third, gave up two goals in a 1:46 span and eventually lost 4-3. In Game 6, they had a 1-0 lead when Detroit scored two third-period goals in 1:54 and eventually won, 3-1. In Game 7, they took a 3-1 lead in the third and then gave up a goal 1:46 later to the Wings, before hanging on to win the series.
The Sharks entered the third in Game 1 of the conference finals with a 2-1 lead, as Joe Thornton(notes) scored on a gift turnover from Roberto Luongo(notes) and Patrick Marleau(notes) tipped home a Dan Boyle(notes) point shot. Alas, they played like they had the lead - protecting it instead of aggressively attempting to grow it.
At 7:02, the lead evaporated. The Thornton line couldn't establish anything in the offensive zone and the Sedins line took off: Henrik Sedin(notes) chipping the puck to Alex Burrows, who sent a pass to Kevin Bieksa(notes), who sniped top far corner like he was Steven Stamkos(notes).
Then, Raffi Torres(notes) drew an elbowing penalty on Dany Heatley(notes), throwing his head back as the two were tangled. Bad penalty, 32 seconds after the goal … especially when Vancouver cashed in again 47 seconds later.
Two keys to this goal. The first was Ryan Kesler(notes) — or as VERSUS called him on several occasions, "The American Ryan Kesler" — drawing two penalty killers with the puck along the boards. By our math, that means Vancouver had a 4-on-2 in the rest the zone. Kesler sent a cross-ice pass to the point to Christian Ehrhoff(notes), who made a smart feed to a cutting Henrik Sedin for the 3-2 lead as Marc-Edouard Vlasic(notes) was still skating over from Kesler.
And that was it. Another blown lead for the Sharks in the third.
Game 1's rally by the Canucks was partly due to the Sharks losing their legs in the third, a product of a 7-game war with the Wings; but it was also indicative of the systemic lapses for the Sharks in this postseason.
"They won a lot of races, sustained offensive zone time. They wore us down," said Coach Todd McLellan.
"There's nights when we lose our legs and our minds are still sharp, but that wasn't the case tonight," he said. "We were like dogs chasing cars on the freeway."
And now Vancouver's in the driver's seat.