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Sharks devastated after blowing 3-0 series lead

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks' history has been marked by huge disappointments, bitter losses and failed quests to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

The Sharks added another chapter, maybe the worst in franchise history, to that ongoing saga Wednesday night at SAP Center, completing one of the biggest collapses in NHL history.

San Jose suffered a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of their Western Conference First Round series and became the fourth team in League history to take a 3-0 lead and fail to advance.

"Every year you lose is pretty low, but this one is a type of series that will rip your heart out," forward Logan Couture said. "It hurts. It's going to be a long summer thinking about this one and what we let slip away. Personally, myself, I didn't play the way I wanted to. I'm one of the guys that's counted on big-time to be successful, and I didn't get the job done when we needed to."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said the series loss clearly marked the low point in his six seasons with San Jose, and he took responsibility for the collapse.

"There's a lot of proud moments in the organization and probably some that were not so good before, but it's as low as it's been for me and for the players that have been together for the six years that I've been here," McLellan said. "That's a very easy one to answer. I'm in charge. I'm responsible for the group that performs on the ice. I have to accept that responsibility.

"When we break down the series, I'm not going to throw any individuals under the bus because we lost it collectively. But I'm responsible for that group."

There was plenty of blame to go around for the Sharks. After winning the first three games by a combined score of 17-8, they lost the final four by a combined score of 18-5. San Jose scored two goals in the final three games. Couture, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski didn't have a single point in the final three games. Over the final four games, Pavelski produce the lone goal from that group and Marleau had the other points on two assists.

"I think their defense just swallowed us up right now, to be honest with you," Thornton said. "They just played real tight defensively and their goaltender (Jonathan Quick) got hot like he usually does this time of the year. ... It's just so disappointing. It's just very, very tough right now."

Defenseman Dan Boyle, who is in the final year of his contract with San Jose, found it hard to put the loss into words.

"The team we had, the team we have, it's just very unfortunate … a missed opportunity," Boyle said. "There's a lot of good things here. That's a devastating loss."

The Sharks have reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs 17 times and have reached the Western Conference Final on three occasions, losing each time. They've left themselves wide open to critics who'll say these were the same old Sharks.

"We obviously don't want to hear that kind of stuff, but what are we going to say?" defenseman Brad Stuart said. "We were on the wrong side of history tonight. It's tough for us to argue with anything that's said. We let ourselves down, we let the fans down, we let everybody in our organization down. It's not a good feeling. There's not really much else you can say about it."

"You don't usually agree with it," Marleau said of the criticism, "but then you do something like this, and it's not easy to take."

Couture said the Sharks lost to a better team, one that showed more grit and resolve than San Jose.

"They're a great hockey team over there," Couture said. "They've got a great lineup, one line through four, one D-man through seven, and in my mind the best goaltender in the world. They're no pushover over there. It's just so disappointing that we were able to go up 3-0 and not find a way to have that killer instinct, to find a way to scrape and claw and win games like they did. It's tough saying it, but I think the better team won the series. They were better than us. We lost four games. It's tough."

Where did the series turn for the Sharks?

"I look at it as they fixed their problems (and) we didn't," McLellan said. "Our problems got progressively worse as we went along. We were awful off the rush. They scored I don't know how many goals off the rush. Every day we came to the rink and we tried to stress that about giving outnumbered rushes. We were never able to fix it. It's frustrating because during the year we were pretty good in those areas."

McLellan said the Sharks didn't let up after building a 3-0 lead, but they had another big psychological roadblock.

"We respect that team," McLellan said of the Kings. "We've seen that team enough. They've won the Cup. They play hard. The problem that we ran into was getting them to understand that the 7-2 and the 6-3 games weren't going to keep coming. We captured that a little bit in Game 6, a 1-1 game and at the end it got away from us. Tonight we weren't that bad, and we gave up an outnumbered rush and it was in our net and game over."

Series over too.

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