DENVER -- The play was going to video review, but the person in a Sharks jersey closest to the action when the puck crossed the goal line in the final instant of overtime Sunday night knew his team was not going to like the outcome.
"I heard the horn after it was already by me by a bit. I thought it was going to be good," goalie Antti Niemi said of the desperation shot by Matt Duchene that gave the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 victory over the Sharks. The shot went in a mere three-tenths of a second before the game would have gone to a shootout.
It was another crushing defeat for a San Jose team that reached the midpoint of this lockout-shortened, 48-game season with an 11-7-6 record after starting 7-0. Yes, the Sharks could take some satisfaction in the fact that -- reversing Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues -- they were the ones who erased a two-goal deficit. And they did pick up a point.
But losing with less than a second to play has a special sting.
The final sequence of events started with 11.2 seconds left in overtime and Joe Pavelski losing a defensive-zone faceoff to Duchene, who had notched Colorado's first goal as well.
"You'd like to win that draw. That's something you pride yourself on," Pavelski said. "You get put out in a situation like that, and you lose it right away."
The puck then found its way to Avalanche forward PA Parenteau at the blue line. He fired away, and Pavelski did exactly what he wanted to do -- block the shot.
"You'd like to think if you block it every time, you're going to get a little better result," he said. "But sometimes you're not."
This time the puck went straight to Duchene, whose 16-foot wrist shot from the slot beat Niemi. Such is hockey's fickle nature.
"We can analyze that 100 times if we wanted," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "It hits (Pavelski) in the chest, it falls right on the guy's tape and he puts it in the net. That's the way it happens sometimes."
Goals by Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly had built a 2-0 lead for the Avalanche that the Sharks didn't start chipping into until the final minute of the second period when Patrick Marleau scored his team-leading 13th goal of the season. Logan Couture knotted things up late in the third period by blasting a one-timer past Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov for his 10th.
The game was Colorado's first since ending the Chicago Blackhawks historic streak of earning at least one point in the first 24 games of the season, and the Avalanche picked up where it left off Friday night.
A penalty to Adam Burish put Colorado on the power play early, and the Avalanche took a 1-0 lead at 6:47 of the first period. Justin Braun's unsuccessful clearing attempt ended up with Duchene taking a back door pass -- also from Parenteau -- and punching it into the San Jose net.
Colorado then doubled its lead at 6:58 of the second period when the Avalanche sped down the ice and O'Reilly tipped a centering pass from Aaron Palushaj past Niemi.
That's where the score stood until Marleau deflected a shot by Braun past a screened Varlamov with 39.1 seconds left in the period. And the Sharks evened things up at 16:35 of the third period when Couture -- who had been frustrated when a glove save by the Colorado goalie robbed him on a power play earlier in the period -- blasted a one-timer from the high slot into the Avalanche net.
"I was able to find a soft spot there, and the puck came off my stick very nicely," said Couture, who scored for a second consecutive game. "Just shooting it as hard as I could."
Couture expressed his frustration over the way the game -- as well as much of the season -- has gone.
"We have to start finding ways to win these games," he said. "Yesterday we gave up a lead, today we come back. One point is good, but you need to get two in this league."
"I didn't agree with the call at all tonight," he said. "I thought he was clearly pushed into him. I'm sure the officials will review it and see it that way as well."
Do not expect McLellan to tell his offensively struggling team not to crash the net, even with the penalties being called.
"We want our guys to go hard," he said. "We want our guys to be competitive in the blue paint."
"It's a nice thing to get," he said. "Hopefully there's a lot more where that came from."
Sharks (11-7-6) at St. Louis (13-10-2), 5 p.m. CSNCA
Achieving their goals
Most goals scored by a San Jose Sharks player:
1. Patrick Marleau 400
2. Owen Nolan 206
3. Jonathan Cheechoo 165
4. Joe Thornton 160
5. Jeff Friesen 149