It has become a familiar and troubling trend for the Vancouver Canucks on many nights this season.
They fall behind early – often looking half asleep from the opening faceoff, as if they're surprised the game started on time – before steadying the ship and then frantically pressing late, desperately trying to erase a deficit.
And then there have been other times, albeit not nearly as many, when the club plays well out of the gate only to suffer a third-period collapse.
Thirty-three games into 2016-17, the Canucks are still looking for that elusive complete effort.
"Sometimes we have good starts, sometimes we have bad endings," veteran forward Jannik Hansen said following Tuesday's 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets, a game Vancouver trailed 1-0 after getting thoroughly outplayed in the first period. "If we knew the answer to that we'd play 60 good minutes every single night, but for some reason we're having a hard time stringing full games together. "
Vancouver has allowed the first goal a stunning 25 times this season, including in each of the first three outings of the club's current and crucial four-game homestand.
The Canucks (14-16-3) battled back from a goal down on Friday to beat Tampa Bay 4-2 and salvaged a point in a 4-3 overtime loss to Columbus on Sunday before Tuesday's come-from-behind win.
"It's obviously hard to play well every single game, but you have to find a way," said Hansen, who scored twice against the Jets. "You have to find a way to dig through the stretches where breaks aren't there, pucks are bouncing the other team's way."
One of the games in which the Canucks played well for a time and then fell apart late came last week when they blew a 5-2 third-period lead in an ugly 8-6 loss on the road against Carolina.
The team limped home after that one knowing that its final five games before Christmas could go a long way in determining how the rest of the season unfolds. Vancouver is 2-0-1 so far and, in a scheduling quirk, hosts Winnipeg for a second straight game at Rogers Arena on Thursday before visiting Calgary the following night.
"We talked going into this [about how] we needed maybe four out of five [wins prior to the holiday break] to get back into the race," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "We've given ourselves a good start on this homestand, but we have to finish it off. [Thursday] is another big game against a team that's right there battling with us."
The Jets (15-17-3), meanwhile, were left frustrated on Tuesday after grabbing an early lead and peppering Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom in the first period.
Winnipeg – which sits two points up on Vancouver in the standings, but has played two more games – could have easily led by two or three, but instead let the Canucks hang around before eventually falling to 5-11-2 on the road.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler said the rematch shouldn't present many surprises to either team.
"We have a pretty good idea of what they are trying to do," said Wheeler, who scored his team's only goal Tuesday.
Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck said playing the same team in the same venue in consecutive games in a non-playoff setting is a bit different, but added he expects a better effort.
"We kind of lit the fire," he said. "We are going to want the next one a little bit more."