McLellan had no such fear Wednesday at SAP Center. Not with the rival Los Angeles Kings in town and the Sharks looking to make amends for a poor showing in a loss to the New Jersey Devils two nights earlier.
The Sharks ramped up their effort and rolled to a 4-2 victory against the Kings in both teams' final game before the All-Star break.
"The win, the score, everything we're happy with, but what's most satisfying is the competitiveness that we showed up with," McLellan said. "We shouldn't need to talk about it, but now that it was there throughout 20 players, it should go recognized. We have to capture that and be prepared to bring it to the rink after the break every night because it's shaping up to be a very tight conference."
Logan Couture had two goals, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski each scored on the power play, and Antti Niemi made 26 saves for the Sharks (25-17-6), who are off until the Anaheim Ducks come to San Jose on Jan. 29.
Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter scored for the Kings (20-15-12), who lost for the seventh time in eight games. Goaltender Jonathan Quick made 21 saves and took the loss on his 29th birthday. The Kings are off until they host the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 28.
The Sharks enter the break in second place in the Pacific Division with 56 points. The Kings have 52 points and are one point behind the Calgary Flames, who own the second Western Conference wild-card position for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We're disappointed where we are in the standings right now," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "We have to take the next few days to figure that out. It's time to play desperate coming out of the break."
Couture said it's always easy to get up to play the Kings. For this game, he and many of the sellout crowd of 17,562 fans had an extra boost of energy on Metallica Night at SAP, with members of the heavy metal band dropping the ceremonial first puck and revving up the crowd.
"Being the Kings, the building has a different feel to it," Couture said. "The fans, it has different excitement and then the start of the game, when Metallica was doing the starting announcement, that was wicked. That was one of the best experiences I've had during hockey. It was so cool."
The Sharks tied their franchise record with 42 hits, and the Kings delivered 45 hits in a typically physical and emotional game between San Jose and Los Angeles.
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead into the third period, and Pavelski made it 3-1 at 11:33 with his 12th power play goal of the season and team-high 24th goal overall. Pavelski moved into a tie with the Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead in power-play goals.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was in the penalty box for high sticking Couture, and Pavelski capitalized. Matt Greene blocked his first shot, but Pavelski got to the loose puck and hammered a shot past Quick from close range.
"We needed this game," Pavelski said. "The rivalry, it's there. We know it's going to be a competitive game when we play them and it needs to be that way. But it needs to be that way every night. Guys shored up and did that. We've got to bottle it every night, we've got to compete."
Carter scored a power-play goal with 22.4 seconds left to play, cutting San Jose's lead to 3-2, but Couture was credited with an empty-net goal with three seconds left.
The last time the Kings and Sharks played at SAP Center, Los Angeles beat San Jose 5-1 on April 30 in Game 7 of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series to complete a historic comeback after losing the first three games.
The Sharks took a 2-1-0 lead in the season series. The next time they'll play is Feb. 21 at Levi's Stadium, home of San Francisco 49ers, in the 2015 Coors Light Stadium Series.
The Sharks grabbed a 1-0 lead at 10:44 of the first period on Couture's 17th goal of the season. Couture got the puck at San Jose's blue line, raced down the left boards past defenseman Alec Martinez and drove to the net before beating Quick to the short side with a wrist shot.
Matt Irwin and Niemi got the assists. For Niemi, it was his second assist of the season and seventh of his career.
"I got lucky," Couture said. "It hit the linesman and Martinez was flat-footed so I was able to get a step on him. (Quick) poke-checked me a little bit and I was able to get it to the side of the blocker."
The Sharks outshot the Kings 10-6 in a first period that included a combined 32 hits and four penalties, including fighting majors to San Jose's Brenden Dillon and Los Angeles' Kyle Clifford. The fighting penalty was San Jose's first of 2015.
The Kings pulled even at 11:39 of the second period when Brown scored on a wraparound. Niemi stumbled as he tried to move from the left to the right post while Brown skated behind the net. Brown, who skated on the top line with Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, scored his eighth goal of the season and second in four games after a 17-game goalless streak.
The Sharks regained the lead at 16:39 when Marleau scored on the power play. He has nine goals for the season and 39 against the Kings in his career.
With Doughty in the penalty box for hooking Pavelski, Couture fired the puck from above the left circle toward the net, and Marleau knifed in from the other side to redirect the puck past Quick.
"We can't afford to give up two power-play goals and expect to win, especially on the road," Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "We can all just do a better job, whether it's guys who have to be physical throwing more forechecks or skill players who need to hang onto the puck, rush the net and score big goals. The penalty kill has to kill a big penalty or two. It's about all those things."
The Sharks easily could have built a bigger lead in the second, but they couldn't capitalize on multiple prime scoring chances. Couture had a breakaway midway through the period, but Quick made a brilliant pad save.
Moments later, Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb, who turned 24 on Wednesday, saved a possible goal by breaking up a give-and-go pass from James Sheppard to Tomas Hertl on a 2-on-1 rush. With less than five minutes left, Quick robbed Pavelski, who redirected a Brent Burns blast.
After Brown tied the game, the Sharks didn't blink.
"Foot on the gas pedal," McLellan said. "They're a big, hard team and you have to play big and hard against them to have any chance of success. You can't play safe. You have to get your nose involved, but you have to play smart. That was the message for the whole night."
Dean Lombardi served his 669th game as Kings general manager, passing Rogie Vachon for the most in franchise history.
Greene played his 400th game for the Kings and 551st in the NHL.