DETROIT -

The Detroit Red Wings should have won Thursday night in San Jose.

The Red Wings had every chance they needed to make a statement early in the 1ist period. They ruled every statistic except the one that matters: Goals.

Of course, the law of hockey held true, and the missed opportunities by the Red Wings turned into goals for the Sharks -- starting with a shorthanded tally from Joe Pavelski with 12 seconds remaining in the 1st to tie it up at 1-1.

That's hockey.

Detroit couldn't put that behind them, and the rest of the game just didn't showcase the same high-intensity Red Wings group that the 1st period had. The Sharks took control when the Red Wings let go.

The result was a devastating 5-2 road loss for the Wings (9-7-1), their 5th loss on the road this season and second straight. Now, Detroit sits at 4th place in the Central Division and eight points behind the 1st-place Chicago Blackhawks. At this rate, the Wings can kiss the playoffs goodbye, sitting at 10th place in the Western Conference, 2 points out of 8th.

The lack of consistent offense is killing them.

The team has 45 goals for this season in 17 games. That's an average 2.6 goals per game. With 40 goals against, the Wings are struggling to outscore their opponent on any given night.

The inconsistency of this club's offense is disconcerting and will probably be its downfall. If the Red Wings do indeed miss the playoffs it will be because of the offense. That's terribly surprising considering the changes they made in the offseason were all on defense.

Forty goals against is not too bad. The defense and Jimmy Howard are getting the job done. It's goals. Where are they?

The players who are supposed to be putting the puck in the net aren't, and that's the bottom line. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Danny Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi (who has been sick, so he gets a pass, for now), Valtteri Filppula and even Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader. How can this entire lineup, including the "Mule" Johan Franzen who shows up every one out of five games, not be scoring?

Coach Mike Babcock is surely wondering the same thing.

Next up on the west-coast trip is Los Angeles where the Kings sit atop the Pacific Division with a 10-6-3 record. The Kings are at the top of that division thanks to a stellar defense.

Detroit could get out of this game with just a couple goals, thankfully.