CHICAGO -- Losing 5-1 to anybody would be bad enough.
But even more frustrating for the Sharks was the fact they were beaten Sunday night by the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in a building where San Jose now has lost six in a row.
"We know we're going to have to win in this building, probably win in L.A.," said Joe Pavelski, citing another site where San Jose hasn't won lately. "These are the buildings on the road that you've got to win in, and you've got to learn to win in. It's tough to lose. It sucks." The Sharks had a built-in excuse. They were wrapping up a five-game trip that zigzagged across North America and featured no two consecutive games in the same time zone. Even with the loss here, they come home 3-1-1.
Still, players wouldn't invoke that, and coach Todd McLellan wasn't having any of it if they did.
"We're deep into the trip, there's a little bit of a fatigue factor, but that's just giving yourself or your team permission to come up short," McLellan said. "That's not what we're about."
The Sharks actually started the game as the team with more energy, trying to put pressure on a Chicago team coming off an embarrassing 7-2 loss in Nashville the night before.
But by the middle of the first period, momentum had shifted Chicago's way and never reversed direction.
Patrick Sharp scored twice for Chicago -- the second on a penalty shot late in the third period -- and Brandon Pirri, Jonathan Toews and Kris Versteeg had one goal each. Pavelski scored the lone San Jose goal, and the loss dropped netminder Antti Niemi to 5-6-1 against his former team.
Chicago jumped ahead 1-0 at 16:34 of the first period when Scott Hannan blocked a shot by Patrick Kane and the puck went straight to Pirri, who didn't miss.
But the Sharks came back to tie the game at 8:16 of the second period when a shot by Pavelski deflected off Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival's stick and caused problems for Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.
"He grabs it, his glove's coming down and it kind of falls out," Pavelski said. "There's a little spin and it's in the net. It was a bounce we needed."
Less than four minutes later, though, Chicago recaptured the lead when Sharp went unnoticed by the San Jose defense, took a pass from Marcus Kruger in the left faceoff circle and one-timed it past Niemi.
The Sharks were trailing by only one goal when the third period began, but Toews tucked the rebound of his own shot into the San Jose net at 3:39. A late goal by Versteeg made it 4-1, and Sharp's penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway by Marc-Edouard Vlasic ended the scoring just 71 seconds before the final buzzer.
"We lacked a lot of energy that was needed to play in this type of game," McLellan said. "When you don't have energy, you better be sharp mentally, and we may have been really poor in that area."
McLellan pointed to turnovers on Chicago's second and third goals as turning points in the game.
"In both cases, we've got the puck and it's in our net," the coach said. "If we go four deep in goals and assists, you probably will be rewarding the white team for a fourth assist."
The loss was only the third in regulation for the Sharks, who had a chance to move back to the top of the Pacific Division with even one point, and it ended San Jose's three-game winning streak.
McLellan said it was time to "get on the plane, get home ... recharge the battery," and defenseman Dan Boyle was in agreement.
"We wanted to come back with a big two points," he said. "It was a pretty tough road trip for us physically and mentally. We had some good, and we had some bad, and we'll go home and get some rest and start over again."
Tampa Bay (14-6-0) at Sharks
(13-3-5), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA