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Sharks Show Killer Instinct on Hawks, Can They Do It Against Better Teams?



Credit: AP Photo/Paul Beaty

The San Jose Sharks haven’t had a killer instinct this year.

So it was nice to see them, up 3-2 going into third period against the Chicago Blackhawks, pour it on with two more goals to polish off the home side.

“The only way to learn how to do it is do it and you draw from those experiences,” head coach David Quinn said. “So hopefully we’re in that position again, we have a good feeling about it, and follow through the way we did tonight.”

That’s what the Sharks failed to do on Thursday night, when they blew a 3-1 third period lead to drop a 4-3 OT decision to the Philadelphia Flyers.

“We have to just keep playing the same way, but it seems like we always get a little scared,” alternate captain Tomas Hertl said about the Sharks’ inability to finish tight games.

Ironically, San Jose stepped up against Chicago despite the worst efforts from Hertl, who took two unnecessary tripping penalties after the Sharks made it 4-2 in the final frame. Hertl did get an assist on the Timo Meier goal that gave San Jose the two-goal lead. And the Sharks’ penalty kill and goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen picked Hertl up.

Going on the kill twice didn’t deter the Sharks’ momentum – Evgeny Svechnikov added another to give San Jose a three-goal lead. 5-on-5, San Jose actually controlled the final frame, winning the shot attempt (10-8), shot (5-3), and high-danger (3-1) battles, according to Natural Stat Trick.

The San Jose Sharks now have an unremarkable .833 Points % with a lead going into the third period. That’s 25th in the NHL.

Besides the Flyers setback, they outright lost 4-2 against the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 25 entering the third period with a 2-1 edge, and lost in a shootout to the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 5 entering the final frame with a 3-2 lead.

“I think it’s a mental thing,” Quinn said of the Sharks’ lack of killer instinct against the Flyers and other opponents. “[Philadelphia] made it 3-2 and I thought you could feel it. We weren’t as aggressive. We were a little bit hesitant.”

There appeared to be no such hesitancy tonight. The next test is to put the hammer down on an opponent other than the league-worst Hawks.

“We know we can play with the best teams in this league,” Jaycob Megna said after an actually well-played 5-2 loss to the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars, “and we want to get wins out of these games.”

One area that might be a more critical fix than the Sharks’ record entering the third period with a lead?

Their NHL-worst .385 Winning % entering the second period with a lead. They’re the only team in the league under .500 in this category.

They’ve actually led after one 13 times, good for 13th in the league, ahead of contenders like the New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, and Edmonton Oilers.

So the Sharks have no problem starting games – but they have a big problem finishing them.

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