SAN JOSE -- Just when it looked as if the Sharks' dormant offense might be waking up, the defensive side of their game went to sleep.
Three Philadelphia Flyers goals in less than a three-minute span early in the third period Monday night doomed San Jose to a 5-2 defeat, but it wasn't as if the Sharks and coach Todd McLellan didn't see it coming.
"Even in the second period, we weren't the better team," McLellan said. "We were playing with fire. It was a matter of time. If we were going to continue to play that way, we were going to get burned. And we did."
Two first-period goals by rookie Matt Nieto matched San Jose's production for the previous four games combined -- shootouts excluded -- and enabled the Sharks to enter the third period with a 2-1 lead. But goals by Philadelphia forwards Matt Read, Michael Raffl and Claude Giroux before many in the crowd could get back after the second intermission turned things around quickly.
The Sharks contributed to their own demise as the Flyers beat San Jose for the first time since Dec. 21, 2000.
Read's goal at 1:11 came on what looked like a harmless shot from a harsh angle in the right faceoff circle that clipped defenseman Matt Irwin's stick. Just 78 seconds later, the Sharks failed to clear their zone, and Raffl pounced on a loose puck after Marc-Edouard Vlasic had blocked the previous shot. And Giroux made the Sharks pay at 3:56 for a neutral zone turnover by Irwin.
"I've got to go up the wall on that," Irwin said, taking responsibility. "I heard 'man on, man on,' and I should just bump that right up the wall. It's the safest play. I kind of turned and just wanted to get it out. That's just the wrong play at that time."
Giroux's goal prompted McLellan to yank Antti Niemi for the fifth time this season, but the Sharks coach said that while "Nemo's got to stop some of those," it was really a "team-wide issue."
The Flyers opened the scoring on a power-play goal by Mark Streit at 4:23 of the first period and closed it on a shot by Jakub Voracek that beat backup Alex Stalock with 2:16 left in the game.
Nieto was involved -- directly or indirectly -- in all three first-period goals. He was in the box for hooking when Streit scored, then ended San Jose's 0-for-16 drought on the power play when he redirected a centering pass by Tommy Wingels past Flyers goalie Steve Mason at 7:33
The Sharks took their 2-1 lead at 12:32 when Brent Burns sent a slick backhand pass to Nieto as he cut to the net through the right faceoff circle for a quick 11-foot wrist shot for his first multi-goal game.
But McLellan said he saw troubling signs at that point.
"In the first, I didn't think we were as sharp as we needed to be," he said. "We broke the cardinal rule. When you get outworked and you get outnumbered all over the rink, you're going to lose. It's as simple as that."
Philadelphia had the Sharks on their heels much of the second period but needed to wait until the third period before its comeback began.
San Jose did get two power play chances in the third period -- one less than a minute after Giroux's goal -- but failed to capitalize
"You go down 4-2, it would have been nice to score on the power play," Joe Thornton said, "but it's tough when they get three quick ones like that."
The announcement came on the same day that the NHL named Pavelski its third star for the month of January, when he had a league-high 12 goals in 17 games and added four assists. Finishing ahead of Pavelski were Carolina Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel.
Dallas (25-21-9) at Sharks (35-16-6), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA