San Jose Sharks Fail to Close, Lose in Shootout to Dallas Stars

MJ KasprzakSenior Writer IIMarch 9, 2012

Kari Lehtonen stole Thursday night's game with 45 saves
Kari Lehtonen stole Thursday night's game with 45 savesRonald Martinez/Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks were just 75 seconds away from capturing the best record in the NHL Pacific. It was to be just their fifth win in the last 17 games.

The Dallas Stars were staring their 12th loss in their last 16 home games against their rivals right in the face. It was going to end their eight-game point streak (7-0-1).

Who do you think blinked?

Tomas Vincour's shot crept millimeters across the goal line before it could be snatched back by Antti Niemi. Despite a full two-minute four-on-three power play in overtime, the Sharks could not get the equalizer. (Neither team scored on special teams, with three power plays for San Jose and two for Dallas.)

Once again, they could not finish. They had outplayed Dallas almost the entire game, winning in almost every statistical category: 88-65 in shot attempts, 48-35 in shots on goal (54.5 vs. 53.8 percent making it on goal), plus-two vs. minus-five in giveaway/takeaway differential and 36-28 in faceoffs.

Even in the stats the Sharks appeared to lose—hits (25-32) and blocked shots (13-22)—they really did not: They blocked a higher percentage of the Stars shots (37.1 vs. 33.8) and attempts (27.1 vs. 25) and had a better ratio of hits to possessions (represented as faceoff wins plus takeaways plus opponent giveaways)—.735 vs. .653.

Once again, I discuss this team's failure to close in the spring. Once again, Jeremy Roenick weighs in on his former team.

However, Kari Lehtonen—as Ryan Miller had one week earlier—simply kept the Sharks from winning. Counting the four shots in five attempts during the shootout, he turned away 49 shots. Niemi turned away 35, but the only one he allowed in the skills competition cost the Sharks that top record.

With the loss, San Jose officially remains eighth in standings, four points behind Dallas for the division lead. It is a half-game ahead of Phoenix, which is listed seventh because it has played two additional games, as has Dallas.

However, games in hand only help you if you win them. Right now, the Sharks do well to lose them in overtime (10 regulation losses in those 17 games).

In other words, they had better hope they can back into their fifth consecutive Pacific Division title—or at least their eighth consecutive playoff berth.