VANCOUVER – The San Jose Sharks were 13.2 seconds away from heading back to HP Pavilion for Game 6, but a Ryan Kesler deflection tied the game 2-2, and Kevin Bieksa's double-overtime blast from the point sealed a come-from-behind victory for the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.
Afterward, Sharks rookie Logan Couture said it best when he told the assembled media his team's season "ended too soon."
"Obviously, we haven't figured it out," said a visibly-dejected Couture, a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie. "We were good all year. We played 107 games to get to this point. It (stinks). So much hard work went into this year, in all of our minds this ended way too short. We still a lot to play and a lot to give."
With the loss, the Sharks are 1-8 in back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Finals and 1-10 in their last 11 conference final games dating back to 2004.
In terms of what the group has to do to get over the hump of the Western Conference Final, many of the Sharks believe they're close.
"We got to win a few games, got to win the early games," said Patrick Marleau. "It's a fine line of inches and we got to somehow find those extra inches to get wins."
Added captain Joe Thornton, who played Game 5 with a separated shoulder: "You could ask 27 teams and I think they're a little jealous at the success we've had. For whatever reason, you know you get down to the top two teams in your conference and they're pretty good teams. To get here is an accomplishment, but next year we've got to beat it."
Marleau and Devin Setoguchi had the goals for San Jose, which led 1-0 and 2-1 in the loss. The Sharks out-shot the Canucks all night -- including 15-6 in the first period and 16-9 in the first overtime. It was easily the team's best game of the series and afterwards many of the Sharks said they were both shocked and disappointed.
"A little bit of both. I think we had our chances to score earlier and we let it slip away," said Marleau.
Added Dany Heatley, who finished the series with just a single assist: "I think a little bit of both. We had the mindset we were going to win this game. Up 2-1, I thought we played well and I thought we played well in overtime. It's a couple breaks they got. Again, we put ourselves in a 3-1 hole."
Afterward, coach Todd McLellan admitted the team's inability to close out the Detroit Red Wings set them back heading into the series with the Canucks.
"The Detroit series did take a lot out of us," he said. "When you look at Game 1, I thought fatigue was our biggest factor in this game. You can attribute that to the team in Detroit taking a little bit of our juice away from us, if you will."
With much of the core still intact heading into the off-season, the next four months will be spent trying to figure out how this group can get past the final four and into the elusive Stanley Cup Final.