SAN JOSE -- The Sharks squandered a two-goal lead in the third period and scored only once in four shootout attempts in a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, easily one of their most frustrating defeats of the season.
Kyle Okposo beat Antti Niemi with a shot from the point with 97 seconds left in the third period to tie the score 2-2. Okposo then scored the winning goal in the shootout as the Sharks saw their losing streak extended to four games.
But judging by the way the Sharks dominated the first half of the game, it probably shouldn't have even come to that point.
"Third period in our building, up 2-0," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said, "we've got to win those games."
The Sharks controlled the puck for most of the first period but couldn't score despite 18 shots on net and three power-play opportunities.
Patrick Marleau and Pavelski scored in the second period to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead. But Thomas Vanek's goal just 51 seconds into the third period gave the Islanders some life and made for a more suspenseful finish than Sharks coach Todd McLellan possibly could have wanted.
On the tying goal, Islanders center John Tavares won the draw cleanly from Pavelski back to Okposo, whose shot found the top corner above Niemi's right shoulder.
"Lost it clean. Lost it clean, scored short side high," McLellan said. "If it was a different shot, you'd like to get in the shooting lane. But you lose a draw like that, you got one freebie, and they made it count."
The Sharks dominated the first period but were still unable to get anything past Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin, who made a number of standout saves. Twelve Sharks had at least one shot.
"Poulin tonight was incredible. Give him full marks for the saves he made, especially early in the game," McLellan said. "But we can't let teams or goaltenders hang around like we are right now. We've got open nets, we have second chance opportunities that we're not bearing down on, and it makes a huge difference in our game."
The Sharks didn't have the benefit of a full practice to work on their ailing power play before Tuesday's game, instead making do with some brief drills in the morning skate.
The Sharks went 1 for 4 with the man advantage against the Islanders after they entered Tuesday's game having scored just one goal with the man advantage in their past 18 tries.
"It was significantly better than where it was on the road trip," McLellan said.
The game figured to be the most winnable one for the Sharks for the rest of the month. The Sharks play at Nashville (14-14-3) on Saturday, but face playoff-caliber teams for the rest of December -- starting with Thursday's home game against Minnesota.
Not only that, but the Islanders entered the game winless in their last 10, including a 5-2 loss to Anaheim on Monday, to sink to last in the Metropolitan Division.
Nabokov, the Sharks' career leader in numerous goaltending categories -- including wins (293) and shutouts (50) -- over 10 seasons in San Jose, couldn't help but become emotional Tuesday afternoon when asked about his favorite memories with his former team.
"A lot of good memories here," said Nabokov, referencing his start in the organization with former coach Darryl Sutter and former general manager Dean Lombardi, the team's late goaltending coach Warren Strelow, general manager Doug Wilson and assistant G.M. Wayne Thomas.
Nabokov has been out since Nov. 18 with a groin injury. This was the second meeting between the teams since the Sharks parted ways with Nabokov, declining to offer him a new contract in June 2010. Nabokov also had a groin injury for the first meeting in October 2011.
Minnesota (18-9-5) at Sharks (19-6-6), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA