The San Jose Sharks have been jockeying with the Los Angeles Kings for the fourth seed in the Western Conference piece of the Stanley Cup Playoffs all season, but suffered a major loss Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
With a chance to gain a one-point lead on the Kings, San Jose fell to the Blue Jackets in the final two minutes of play, surrendering a goal to Ryan Johansen. The Kings and the Sharks are now tied with 55 points.
Both Columbus and San Jose were facing crucial games in their playoff runs, as the Blue Jackets hold the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference standings. Meanwhile, San Jose would have clinched their ninth straight trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a point against the Blue Jackets.
Los Angeles has already clinched a playoff spot.
After surrendering a late goal, the Sharks’ ability to win close games once again comes into question. Will San Jose make it past the first round? That is yet to be seen. It appears like they will have to try without home ice, at least.
San Jose showed some fight in the third period, something they have been lacking for much of this season. Joe Pavelski brought the game back to even with a power-play goal at 14:57 of the third. He later turned over the puck in San Jose’s zone to lead to Johansen’s game-winning goal.
The Sharks certainly have the tools necessary to be relevant in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but with the loss on Sunday, San Jose has made the road much tougher.
John Engel is a Pac-12 college basketball writer for Rant Sports and also works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio. Follow John on Twitter: @engelsportsguy.