DALLAS -- The San Jose Sharks took the Dallas Stars into a game 7 Sunday night. And then into a game 8.
That's not what the official result will say, of course. It will say the Sharks lost 2-1 in four overtimes. And that the Sharks lost their playoff series bitterly in six games.
Yet as the scoreboard clock moved into the second overtime, then the third, then the fourth, game 6 didn't just become the longest game in Sharks history. It became the most remarkable game of this season's entire NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
And for the Sharks, the worst loss.
"It wasn't because we didn't have our chances, that's for sure," Sharks captain Patrick Marleau said. "That's what is so disappointing. We thought we could come back and win the series. It's tough to swallow."
What a night.
With the Sharks trying to avoid elimination and the Stars trying to avoid becoming the first NHL team since 1975 to face a potential game 7 exit after leading the series 3-0 ... well, it was no surprise the stakes could be felt all the way up in the rafters of American Airlines Center. Meanwhile, in the arena's lower bowl, every spectator stood throughout every minute of the overtimes.
Then, as always happens with NHL overtime, everything was suddenly over. With 9:03 gone in the fourth overtime, on a Stars power play, Dallas captain Brenden Morrow put the puck into the net off a feed from defenseman Stephane Robidas. And that was it.
The game lasted so long, you half expected Jeremy Roenick to become a great-grandfather before it was done. One of sport's bromides is that there is nothing like an overtime NHL playoff game. And this one held to that standard.
There have been questions about the Sharks' character these past five years, as they've never been able to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Those questions have been overblown. The real issue is that the Sharks have never been able to concentrate and stay intense for the duration of the season's most important periods and moments.
Those questions should be settled for a while. It was ironic that after the Sharks carried the play and concentrated the best for all of those overtime minutes, a half-mental, half-physical error by defenseman Brian Campbell caused a penalty that set up the power play in which Morrow scored. Working on his 68th shift of the evening and in his 57th minute of playing time -- compared with his usual 28 minutes or so -- Campbell was behind the Sharks' net when he got his stick beneath Stars wing Loui Eriksson.
The referee's hand went up. Tripping. Officials are notoriously lenient in overtimes. But this one had to be called. Forty-nine seconds into the power play, Morrow won the series. Campbell sat in the Sharks' locker room afterward, totally drained.
"There's not much I can feel about it," Campbell said, and everyone there understood.
The goal ended more than three extra periods of tension, as the teams strode and slammed and splayed themselves up and down the ice, back and forth. Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov made brilliant save after save. So did Dallas goalie Marty Turco. Each side blocked shots. Each side went for broke.
Ryane Clowe tied the score for the Sharks early in the third period, setting up all of the extra stuff. That made you think it would be the Sharks' night. But two hours later, the result came in the wrong way. And for the rest of the spring, one insufferable fact keeps rubbing its nose in the snouts of our beloved Los Tiburones: Since 2004, no team in the NHL has won more playoff games than the Sharks. But they've never been able to get over the hump and into the finals. In fact, they've made it past the second round only once.
Because here is the even more insufferable flip side of that statistic: Since 2004, no team in the NHL has also lost more playoff games than the Sharks.
Maybe that will change next season. But not this time. Not this time.