SAN JOSE -- The Sharks are one win away from the first playoff sweep in franchise history.
They've put themselves in that position against the Vancouver Canucks by following one of hockey's oldest formulas for postseason success: Your best players have to be your best players.
"We need to contribute, the guys who play big minutes, who play on the power play," Logan Couture said Monday. "We all need to step up and score goals if we're going to be successful. We've done a good job of it for three games, but we still need to be better in Game 4."
That chance comes Tuesday night at HP Pavilion.
With six points each, Couture and Joe Pavelski were tied with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin for the NHL playoff scoring lead before Monday night's games. Couture and Patrick Marleau were tied with two others for most goals with three. Add Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle to the mix and those five Sharks have accounted for 10 of the team's 11 postseason goals.
So have the top players fed off each other's success to this point?
"I think so," said Couture, whose three goals have come on the power play. "When you see Patty playing well and Jumbo playing well, you want to elevate your game."
When the top players are at their best, defenseman Brad Stuart pointed out, they're also helping everyone else fit better into their roles.
"It allows everybody to do their job," Stuart said. "You don't have guys who maybe aren't required to score goals trying too hard because they think they need to fill the void. They can do their job. And that's very important."
Forward Adam Burish, a fourth-line regular, looks at it similarly. And, he added, the top Sharks are also setting an example with their defensive play.
"It sets the standard," Burish said. "When you see Joe Thornton lay down and block a shot in the first period, it tells a guy like me, 'Well, heck, if Joe Thornton is going to sacrifice his body when usually you lean on him for goals and assists, I better do it times ten because this is my job, this is my responsibility."
Under coach Todd McLellan's system that matches strength-against-strength rather than rely on checking lines, having the top Sharks playing well defensively also prevents Vancouver's high-end players from doing the same. Couture's line, for example, has been matched most often against Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who have no goals and two points each.
That only frustrates the team already on the short end of the score.
"I've seen it before," Stuart said. "Guys will start putting pressure on themselves after a couple of games not doing what they need to do. That usually doesn't make things better."
The Sharks, of course, are hoping they need to frustrate Vancouver for only one more game.
San Jose has never swept a playoff series, though the Sharks have jumped out to a 3-0 lead three different times. That happened most recently in 2011 against the Detroit Red Wings in a series that San Jose needed seven games to eventually win.
After his team's 5-2 victory Sunday night, McLellan said he would remind his players of that so they would not let their guard down against the Canucks. Then he changed his mind, figuring the players didn't need their memory jarred.
Defenseman Brad Stuart was on that Red Wings team, and he told reporters that beating the Sharks in Game 4 of that series did give Detroit new life even though only three teams in NHL history have come back from being down 0-3.
"You start believing again," McLellan said, "and then it gets rolling."
Along those lines, he said he expects Vancouver to talk about how just one victory would shift the pressure to the Sharks.
"That's a tactic that coaching staffs have used to put pressure on the team that's leading," McLellan said. "We've done that before, we've tried it. Does it work? I don't know."