SAN JOSE -- The Detroit Red Wings came from behind for a 2-1 shootout victory over the goal-starved Sharks at HP Pavilion on Thursday night, and anyone who wants to know what ails San Jose these days only needs to cue up the video for two plays in the second period.
Twice the Sharks had a 2-on-1 rush with their most highly skilled players -- Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton -- bearing down on Detroit backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson with the puck. San Jose didn't get off a shot on either play.
"They're smart people. They watch the game, they know they have to shoot the puck to score," a frustrated coach Todd McLellan said. "I don't know. ... It's disappointing. When we have those opportunities, we have to make good on them. Other teams in the league do, we have to."
The Sharks did take a 1-0 lead at 4:49 of the third period on a goal by Logan Couture, but the Red Wings needed only 92 seconds to tie it when the puck ricocheted off Patrick Eaves past netminder Antti Niemi.
In the shootout, Red Wings rookie Damien Brunner was the only one of five shooters to score, ending the Sharks' hopes of stringing two wins together for the first time in a February that saw San Jose go 2-6-4.
The Sharks scored only 16 goals in those 12 games, and the month's finale was more of the same. Strong goaltending from Niemi, solid defensive play and minimal offense.
McLellan was troubled by the fact his team had less energy than Detroit, which had
"We're fresh, and I didn't like our energy level most of the night," McLellan said.
"We looked a little lethargic and I don't know what the reason is for that, but it's something we've got to correct."
Both teams have been inconsistent his season, with neither holding anything remotely close to a secure playoff spot. Each had 21 points coming into the game, though San Jose had two games in hand.
The Sharks had the better scoring chances early in the game, with Couture and Ryane Clowe, who was returning from a two-game suspension, coming close.
But it was a freak bounce off the back boards on a dump-in by Douglas Murray that finally helped San Jose get on the scoreboard. Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader reached it first in the high slot, but he lost it to Thornton, who sent it toward Couture.
"I just kind of stole it off him," Thornton said. "I saw Logan with his stick up in the air. That usually means give it to him, and he made a beautiful shot."
Niemi then held his ground against a couple of in-close pokes at the puck by Detroit forward Dan Cleary, but a shot from the blue line by Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall pinballed off Eaves and into the San Jose net to tie the game at 6:21.
McLellan shrugged off the nature of that tying goal and refocused on his team's real problem.
"That's just hockey. It bounced off four different people and went in the net. That happens. You build that in," McLellan said. "Our defensive play isn't hurting us one bit, not one bit. We're able to play well defensively."
Missed scoring opportunities, he added, "that's what's hurting our team."
With only one regulation win in their last 14 games, the Sharks are one of five teams tied for the final three playoff spots in the Western Conference.
But Thursday night's game was a little different from the others.
Stuart began his career as a Shark but spent the past five seasons in Detroit, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2008 and had nothing but good things to say about the franchise. This summer, though, he put his family ahead of his career and ended up returning to the Sharks to be closer to his wife and children who had stayed behind in Los Gatos.
After noting it would been even stranger if his first game against Detroit were in Joe Louis Arena, Stuart said before the game he expected it to be fun facing the Red Wings.
"I've moved on," he said "but it's still going to be a little weird playing against those guys."