While the NHL's top four teams began preparations for the conference finals Monday, the San Jose Sharks had the day off to get ready for one more summer they'll spend feeling like hockey's fifth wheel.
The Sharks lost a second-round playoff series in six games for the third consecutive season Sunday night, falling to the Dallas Stars, 2-1, when Brenden Morrow scored a power-play goal in the fourth overtime.
To many frustrated fans and league observers, the loss cemented San Jose's place as the NHL's most talented collection of mediocrity, a regular-season powerhouse that consistently makes postseason noise but just can't manufacture the luck or the will necessary for a serious pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
San Jose has won five series over the last four seasons but hasn't gone further than the Western Conference finals, which it reached in 2004.
The Sharks had the NHL's second-best regular-season record this season, only to end the season in the exact same spot as the last two.
"There's no consolation in how well you played or how long the game went," said veteran forward Curtis Brown. "It's very disappointing. We had higher expectations and higher hopes than what we did this year."
The Chicago Blackhawks agreed to terms with Finnish goalie Antti Niemi. . . . Center Kamil Kreps and right wing Wade Belak signed two-year contracts to remain with the Florida Panthers.