The Sharks have played some great third periods this season. There was the one in Columbus where they scored four unanswered goals to erase a 3–1 deficit and finish a perfect 6–0 road trip. The one in Los Angeles where they entered trailing 3–2 and scored three to win. The one where they scored three down 2–1 to Philadelphia. The one with three goals to finish a 7–0 rout of Toronto. Then ones against Vancouver, Montreal and Vancouver again with nine third period goals in five days.
Last night's, though, coming against a team already set to clinch a playoff spot with a win, against a team that wasn't just 26–5–2 overall but also 23–7–2 on the road, has to be the best one yet.
For two periods, the Sharks kept pace with the Capitals. The second period was a bit rough, but their 23–16 first period even strength Corsi edge was enough to keep things perfectly even at 32–32 after two, and a huge save by Martin Jones on Jay Beagle's penalty shot kept the score even as well. Then there was the third. If you watched the period, you don't need a Corsi chart to know that the Sharks brought it to the Capitals, but here's one anyway.
The Sharks needed a strong period if they were going to earn two points against the Capitals again with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in the lineup this time around, and boy did they get one. If we go with score-adjusted Fenwick their dominant performance looks even better.
The Sharks held Ovechkin, who leads the NHL's second best shot producer (Brent Burns) by a whopping 47 shots, without an attempt in the period. That's because they got over the penalty trouble that plagued them early in the game and carried play to the Capitals, picking up seven of the first eight shots and 13 of the first 14 attempts. By the time Washington could get anything going at all, they were already down two on goals by Joe Pavelski...
...and Brenden Dillon...
...and it could easily have been more if Melker Karlsson hadn't missed a wide open net or Nick Spaling hadn't hit the post.
Patrick Marleau's line, which was flying all night, had a great period with a +5 Corsi for. So did Logan Couture's line, which did a masterful job shutting down the Ovechkin line with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun. Despite holding a two goal lead for most of the period, the fourth line of Chris Tierney, Dainius Zubrus and Spaling was the only one with a negative Corsi rating—and it still held its own as Pete DeBoer relied on all four lines to protect the lead.
The Sharks' third period performance this season is a good sign for a team poised to return to the playoffs. If they can play like they did last night against the best teams in the NHL, they could make April very interesting indeed.