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Sharks search for killer instinct

by Dhiren Mahiban
VANCOUVER – Poor play in the third period of games has been the San Jose Sharks' Achilles heel in all but one of their last five games.

Dating back to Game 4 of their Western Conference Semifinal with the Detroit Red Wings the San Jose Sharks have lost four of their last five games – failing to find the needed killer instinct to put games away.

"We haven't had good third periods. That's something we had planned, but we need to get better in that area," said Devin Setoguchi. "We need to get better during the push late in the games that, as Todd (McLellan) would say, 'be on our toes not on our heels', and push back, instead of being pushed around."

After falling down 3-0 in Game 4 at the Joe, the Sharks battled back to tie things at three on Dany Heatley’s goal early in the third, but lost 4-3.

In Game 5 at HP Pavilion, Logan Couture gave San Jose a 3-1 lead in the third; however, Detroit scored twice in less than two minutes and skated away with a 4-3 win.

The Wings managed to force a seventh game thanks to a 3-1 win in Detroit in Game 6. Couture gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead in the third, but goals 1:54 apart from Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula sealed yet another come-from-behind victory.

Things didn't change Sunday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals – San Jose had a 2-1 lead heading into the third only to allow two unanswered goals to the Canucks courtesy of Kevin Bieksa and Henrik Sedin falling 3-2.

"The other night it didn't look like we had legs. We weren't executing. I mean, give them credit -- they did a good job, they were skating and we weren't," Setoguchi said. "I mean, it's tough to be a good team when you're not moving and you're not executing and moving the puck well."

Instead of harping on the negatives, McLellan decided to put a positive spin on the Sharks' playoff run thus far.

"We've given up some leads. We've played in 10 one-goal games in the playoffs. We've won seven of them, five in overtime," McLellan said. "We've come back from a 4-0 deficit, a 3-0 deficit. So if we want to focus on giving up a 2-1 lead in the period on a power play, we can.

"We choose to look at the other way where we're effective in a 60- or 80-minute game."

The Sharks' last one-goal win came in Game 7, a 3-2 win over the Red Wings, and the Pacific Division winners have not lost in overtime in these playoffs, currently riding a 5-0 streak when 60 minutes is not enough.

Setoguchi, who has six goals and eight points in 14 games, says his team needs to continue to push when they're playing with the lead.

"We totally went over it – if we get a lead, not to sit back," he said after practice at the University of British Columbia on Tuesday. "We got to keep pushing forward and not just see what they're going to do – we need to continue with our game plan and move forward."
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