(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)
SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks took a 2-1 series lead over the St. Louis Blues with a 3-0 victory in San Jose. It was the first time that the Sharks had two consecutive shutouts in the playoffs, and the first time in a Conference Final. Though the Sharks looked unsteady in the first few minutes of the game, they made the most of their chances and limited the Blues to not very good ones.
Two goals came from Tomas Hertl, with the middle tally from Joonas Donskoi. Martin Jones made 22 saves for the Sharks. David Backes led the Blues in shots, and Brian Elliott made 11 saves on 14 shots before being replaced in the third period. Allen made two saves in relief.
The Sharks did not get off to a good start. That may be an understatement, as they looked like they are on a penalty kill when they were at even strength. The first line to muster any offensive zone time in those terrible five minutes was the fourth line. After that, the second line spent some time there, and the others followed suit. After almost seven minutes of play, the Blues had three shots to the Sharks’ 1 but that does not express how unbalanced the game had been.
The ten minute mark seemed to be the witching moment for San Jose, as the team found their legs and started launching some concerted attacks on the Blues net. Nick Spaling backed up a little too close to Blues goaltender Brian Elliott, but even though Elliott advertised the contact by throwing his mask off, no penalty was called. Later, Marc-Edouard Vlasic had a near miss but the pass was just out of reach. The Sharks almost made up the difference in shots by the end of the period. San Jose also had three odd man rushes by the 12 minute mark, while the Blues had none.
The changes to the Blues lineup showed some promise early. Dimitri Jaskin and Colton Parayko had some strong shifts in the Sharks’ zone later in the first period.
The Sharks were still trailing on the shot clock, 3-7, when a ragged-looking odd man rush by the Sharks’ top line put the puck in the back of the net. Joe Thornton picked the puck up in the neutral zone, and made a short pass to Joe Pavelski as he crossed the blue line. He quickly sent the puck in across the slot, where Tomas Hertl was headed. Hertl gathered the puck up and shot it by Elliott for his fourth goal of the playoffs. Assists went to Pavelski and Thornton.
At the end of the first, Alex Pietrangelo was called for charging and the Sharks started the second period with 1:57 of power play time. Nothing came of it, but the Sharks looked very composed. The Blues, by comparison, failed to take advantage of some fast and loose plays that left the puck up for grabs. Still, the Blues were leading in shots four minutes into the second, 9-8.
The Sharks finally caught the Blues on the shot clock with their second goal of the game, and Joonas Donskoi’s fourth of the post season. Logan Couture carried the puck into the zone and sent a pass back to Donskoi as he crossed the blue line. After looking like he might pass it to another skater in the zone, Donskoi took the shot from high in the slot. Marleau was right in front of the net and Elliott probably did not have a clean view of the shot.
The Blues had their first power play of the game at 15:01 of the second, when Couture went to the box for high sticking Patrick Berglund. The Blues held the zone very effectively and added a couple of shots to their tally but did not change the score.
Early in the third period, the Blues put fierce pressure on the Sharks, adding three shots in the first three minutes and getting the Sharks a little off balance. Six minutes into the period, the Sharks still had no shots on goal.
That first one was a doozy, as it gave the Sharks a 3-0 lead. Tomas Hertl’s second goal of the game was scored with a very simple shot from close in, that went under Elliott. Joe Thornton got the puck to him with a pass around the boards, which he picked up behind the net and skooted ot in front for the shot. Assists went to Thornton and Pavelski. After that goal, Jake Allen took the Blues net.
The Blues pulled Allen as well with over five minutes left in the game. They were able to hold the zone for about 30 seconds before sending it over the blue line themselves. Jones made some good stops but after about a minute of six on five play, the Sharks drove the game back into the neutral zone and took a swipe or two at the empty net. Logan Couture missed one, Tomas Hertle had one blocked. To their credit, the Blues did not give the Sharks much time for those shots.
With just 44.4 left in the game, Alex Pietrangelo went to the box for elbowing. The Blues kept their net empty and held the Sharks’ zone pretty well with the extra skater, but they could not break the shutout.
Game Four will be Saturday at 4:15 PT in San Jose.