DALLAS -- The desperation was there, the tying goal wasn't.

Saturday night, the Sharks failed to match the come-from-behind effort by the Dallas Stars six days earlier, dropping a 2-1 decision at the American Airlines Center that made the Western Conference playoff race even tighter.

In the final two minutes of the game -- including 86 seconds with goaltender Antti Niemi on the bench -- San Jose peppered the Dallas net but couldn't buy a goal. Of the 11 shots fired, three of them reached Stars netminder Richard Bachman and eight were blocked.

"Five goalies at the end of the game," is how Patrick Marleau put it as two of his own shots were among those eight. "Too little too late," was coach Todd McLellan's view.

First-period goals by Dallas forwards Eric Nystrom and Alex Chiasson were all the offense the Stars needed as a third-period power play goal by Brent Burns closed the gap but didn't change the outcome. Coincidentally, Nystrom and Chiasson also scored at HP Pavilion on April 7 when Dallas twice overcame two-goal deficits en route to a shootout win.

While players generally saw the game as one where the effort was there though not the desired results, McLellan took a more critical view.

"I thought we were spotty," the coach said. "It took us a little while to get into it, and that probably cost us the night. I thought we wasted some minutes and weren't hard enough on pucks, didn't keep our noses over it, reached a little bit. Later on we got going."


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The Sharks fell behind early on a play that started when Dan Boyle pinched at the blue line, but the puck shot past him to send Nystrom and Erik Cole the other way on a 2-on-1 break that Nystrom finished with a wrist shot that beat Niemi on the far side at 1:57.

"Nobody covered (for Boyle), and you can't make that play," McLellan said. "Right behind the eight ball isn't a good thing."

The hole grew deeper with Raffi Torres serving his first penalty as a Shark on a questionable interference call. When Chiasson deflected a shot by Stars center Ray Whitney, Niemi had no chance on the play and it was 2-0 at the seven-minute mark.

The Sharks came close to breaking through on a power play midway through the second period, but Bachman was up to the challenge as he made saves on bang-bang shots by Joe Pavelski and Marleau.

"It was kind of bouncing around there, and I just didn't get good wood on it," Marleau said. "He had the bottom taken away, and I didn't get it up obviously."

San Jose's power play did come through in the third period with Burns crashing the net for the rebound of a shot by TJ Galiardi to cut the lead to 2-1 at 5:56.

The Sharks continued to apply pressure, building up to the mad scrambles in the game's final minute that had players pairing off for some serious pushing and shoving. Burns earned a roughing penalty and Andrew Desjardins got one for unsportsmanlike conduct with 1.2 seconds left to play.

"There's a lot of emotion growing in the games," McLellan said, citing the pressure being felt by teams competing for playoff spots. "I don't know about the Chicagos and the Anaheims, but the rest of us feel like we're in that mode already."

The Sharks maintained their fifth seed in the Western Conference despite the loss while the Stars, who have now won five games in a row, moved ahead of the Detroit Red Wings into the eighth spot based on the NHL's tiebreaker formula.

  • James Sheppard was a healthy scratch for the third time in four games.

    For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.