It still might seem too early in the hockey season to see patterns in the way a team is playing. But there’s no denying the Sharks are becoming a team that plays its best hockey in the third period of games.
Like how the Golden State Warriors have built a reputation on coming alive in the third quarter, the Bay Area’s professional hockey club is becoming another team that can fire up the jets late in a game -- even if it's trailing a really good opponent.
This ability to make the final 20 minutes of a game their best was on full display in Tuesday night's 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators.
That isn’t to say holding off the Buffalo Sabres last Thursday night for a 5-1 win wasn’t impressive. Or that keeping cool heads against an agitated New York Islanders squad wasn’t a key to notching that 4-1 win last Saturday.
But the game in Nashville was a better measuring stick.
The Predators are the best team in the Western Conference. They’re fast, physical and know how to impose their dominance on their opponents. Did you get a look at that top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson? They played together as if they wouldn’t mind taking on the whole Sharks lineup on their own. Especially when they gave the Predators the two-goal lead in the second frame.
But for the Sharks, heading into the frame in a two-goal hole was nothing to worry about.
“That’s what we talked about coming out in the third -- this is an easy fix for us,” Joe Pavelski said in a post-game interview.
The captain, who scored the tying goal, pointed to Brendan Dillon’s short-handed tally as the big piece that turned the game back around in the Sharks' favor.
The last time the #SJSharks won in regulation on the road after trailing by 2 goals in the 3rd period (Nov. 22, 2015 at #CBJ), Brenden Dillon had the game-winning goal. Like last night, Dillon, Pavelski (twice) and Burns (also on the PP) all scored in the 3rd period then, too.— Darin Stephens (@SharksStats) October 24, 2018
“I think the first 10 (minutes) we had some looks, but we had to kill a penalty or two,” Pavelski said as he broke down the build-up to the game-changing goal. “We went back and forth and didn’t have a whole lot going. And then all of a sudden … that was the play that we needed.”
The Sharks look to make that third-period magic a habit as they continue on their three-game road trip. Their upcoming opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes, puts 30-plus shots on goal per night and has had success finding the back of the net late in games. And Sunday night's opponent, the Anaheim Ducks, still is neck-and-neck with the Sharks in the Pacific Division standings.
But if the Sharks can continue this trend of being a team that plays their best hockey in the third period, they’ll be very difficult to beat.