The San Jose Sharks have been making a bad habit of blowing leads in the playoffs.
While the Vancouver Canucks celebrated a come-from-behind 3-2 win Sunday night to open their first appearance in the Western Conference finals in 17 seasons, the Sharks were lamenting another game that got away in the final period.
It was the third time in four games San Jose had failed to hold a third-period lead. The one time the Sharks did was during an emotional Game 7 victory over Detroit last Thursday to advance to its second straight conference final.
Just as they did while blowing late leads in Games 5 and 6 — and a 3-0 series lead — against the Red Wings, the Sharks didn’t have an answer when the Canucks’ push late in the second period carried over into the third.
“You never want to protect it. When you’re on your heels, bad things happen,’’ said defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. “I don’t think it was fatigue. I just think they came out harder than we did.’’
San Jose took a 2-1 lead into the third thanks to Patrick Marleau’s goal on its only power play, and a gift goal for Joe Thornton off the stick of Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. But Vancouver converted in the third.
Vancouver’s best players led the way, with Henrik Sedin helping set up Kevin Bieksa’s tying goal 7:02 into the third period, and scoring the winner on a power play 1:19 later.
Game 2 is tomorrow night in Vancouver.
“There’s nights when we lose our legs, but our minds are still pretty sharp, and I didn’t think that was the case tonight. It started between the ears and it worked all the way through the body,’’ Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We were like dogs chasing cars on the freeway. We just weren’t catching anybody.’’
Open to moving? Thrashers president Don Waddell said the team is exploring “all options’’ for new owners as there are reports that for the first time those options include a group interested in moving the team to Winnipeg. Co-owner Bruce Levenson, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, and Waddell would not confirm a report by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Thrashers owners are in negotiations with True North Sports and Entertainment, which would relocate the team to Winnipeg . . . The Flames dropped the interim tag and promoted Jay Feaster to general manager. The team also confirmed that forward Curtis Glencross agreed to a $10.2 million, four-year contract.