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Sharks know Game 3 is important but a loss wouldn’t be a ‘death-hammer’

May 20, 2011, 5:33 PM EDT

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Todd McLellan AP

People tend to throw around the term “must-win game” around even when a game is merely important. Ultimately, elimination games are the only clear contests that merit that title.

The San Jose Sharks know that tonight’s Game 3 matchup against the Vancouver Canucks is important, but they’re also aware that a 3-0 series deficit doesn’t mean automatic defeat. After all, both the Canucks and Sharks saw 3-0 leads evaporate into Game 7 nail-biters. Obviously the team needs to play more disciplined hockey and get their act together, but head coach Todd McLellan downplayed the team’s perceived struggles in third period situations.

Many wonder if the Sharks’ late game troubles stem from inferior conditioning or a “lack of killer instinct” but Mclellan told CSN’s Ray Ratto that those final frame follies might just be a matter of coincidence.

“The first period wasn’t good to us in Los Angeles,” he said, “and now it’s a not very good third period. That’s the nature of the game. If we’re good enough to play beyond this, it might be the second period that gives us problems next.”

Hard-hitting defenseman Douglas Murray reflected on this important (but not quite “do-or-die”) Game 3 contest.

“Game 7? No,” he said with a smile that could have turned smirk with a few more muscle twitches. “Detroit lost three in a row, and they came back and made it a pretty tight series.”

Of course, banking on the healing powers of going down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series makes little sense, but Murray’s greater point is taken. Game 3 is very important, but it is not the death-hammer.

The Sharks just need to approach it as closely as possible to being a death-hammer.

“This is a huge game in the series, no question,” he said. “We’ll prepare for anything, and treat this game that way. But we need to treat every game that way. Everyone’s seen what happened. We just have to go out and do what we’re capable of doing as quickly and consistently as possible. We don’t want to be down 3-0, obviously.”

The Sharks are obviously not approaching tonight’s game with a sense of panic, but they hope to bring plenty of urgency nonetheless. We’ll see if they can get back into this series or if the Canucks will dig them a bigger hole beginning at 9 p.m. ET on Versus.

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