The San Jose Sharks came into Monday night's matchup with the division rival Los Angeles Kings with just one road loss in their last eight contests. They had just had a four-game winning streak broken and had not lost back-to-back games since the fourth game of the season.
The Kings lost the first matchup of the teams and had lost three of four. They were only 6-6-1 on the season at home.
Yet the hosts spent more that half of the game with a two-goal lead. That is why they play the games.
The Sharks were once again done in by their slow start, giving up eight of the first 11 shots on goal and 15 of the first 21 attempted. They have scored first in only about a third of their games this season.
L.A.'s seventh shot was from a sharp angle coming on the heels of a bad giveaway by Justin Braun just 8:37 into the game. It surprised Antti Niemi, and the resulting soft goal ended up being the game-winner. The Sharks played great from there; but it was too late.
In the last two and a half periods, San Jose attempted over half-again the shots L.A. but only put five more on goal because of the Kings shot-blocking. They had more than a fourth-again the ratio of blocks to attempts and more than half-again blocks to shots of the Sharks.
For the game, San Jose had 13 more possessions (11 more faceoff wins and two fewer giveaways) but the same number of shots. The extra possession time led to an appropriate number of additional hits for the Kings and resulted in two extra Sharks power plays, but no special teams goals were scored.
How big a concern are the Sharks slow starts?
For the Sharks, it was the third time they were shutout. All have come against the division rivals they have dominated for four consecutive seasons.
One reason for this is the team's lack of secondary scoring: Only seven players have double-digit point totals, and two players (Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau) have accounted for over a third of the team's goals.
The loss technically dropped the Sharks out of first place and legitimately left them with the fourth-best record in the Western Conference. They have a couple days to prepare for an invasion of Eastern Conference teams, with the Montreal Canadiens coming to town Thursday and the surprising Florida Panthers on Saturday.
Being ready in the first half of the first period might go a long way to preventing the team's first true losing streak since the fourth game of the season.