St. Louis, Missouri - A strange beginning turned into a disappointing end for the Sharks on Saturday night, but San Jose still returned to the Bay Area with home-ice advantage after a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Despite allowing an early fluke goal when defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic inadvertently poked a rebound into his own goal, San Jose outplayed St. Louis in the first period but couldn’t capitalize on the scoreboard. The Blues then dominated the second period, scored a much-needed second goal and then held off the Sharks in a testy third period that ended with a series of skirmishes after the final horn sounded.
Game 3 is Monday night at HP Pavilion, with the series tied 1-1.
The Blues found themselves up 1-0 just 1:31 into the game after Vlasic accidentally poked the puck into his own net off a rebound by goaltender Antti Niemi. Vladimir Sobotka was credited with the goal after his shot from the left circle caromed off Niemi and floated in the crease momentarily. Vlasic quickly attempted to clear the puck but it accidentally landed in the back of the net.
That was the beginning of a weird opening sequence. After an icing call at 5:13, played was delayed for several minutes while workers at the Scottrade Center replaced a portion of the Blues bench that was apparently broken.
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The Sharks failed to capitalize on a power play a couple minutes later after the Blues’ Carlo Colaiacovo was called for cross-checking Tommy Wingels, but San Jose stepped up its pressure at full strength. A series of strong shifts culminated in a terrific scoring chance for Joe Pavelski, but his shot caromed off the crossbar.
St. Louis was forced to switch goaltenders at 1:07 of the second period when Blues defenseman Barret Jackman knocked over Jaroslav Halak sprinting back toward his goal to attempt to break up a 2-on-1 San Jose rush. The Sharks Logan Couture fed Martin Havlat for a shot and Halak made the save, but Jackman immediately bowled his goaltender over.
After being attended to by Blues trainers, Halak tried to make a case to stay in the game but St. Louis replaced him with Brian Elliott, coming off an upper-body injury as well.
The Blues had a monopoly on the puck in the second, a period that seemed to feature an endless string of faceoffs in the Sharks defensive zone. Sobotka came close to registering his second goal of the game but hit the post with a shot. St. Louis had a handful of other high-percentage chances, including another shot that hit the post, before finally making it 2-0 on a goal generated by its top line. T.J. Oshie did most of the work, stickhandling his way through three Sharks before feeding David Backes for a wide-open shot at 13:49.
That was the first goal by either team’s No. 1 line in the series, although the Sharks top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Pavelski generated a good share of scoring opportunities itself.
San Jose came very close to cutting the deficit in half right before the end of the second period on a power play opportunity but Elliott just managed to get his skate on a wraparound attempt by Couture at 19:03. That power play carried over into the third period, including 15 seconds of 5-on-3, but the Sharks couldn’t capitalize.
San Jose went 0-for-4 on the power play while St. Louis went 1-for-6, with the Blues score coming on a 5-on-3 at 19:35 of the third.
The third period was played pretty evenly, with both teams generating some good scoring chances. It also got physical, with several scrums breaking out after stoppages and several fights taking place after the game was over. There were four roughing penalties in each of the second and third periods. Pavelski and Blues Kris Russell also fought in the second period and each served a five-minute major.
The Blues outshot the Sharks 32-29 and won 36 of 65 faceoffs (55 percent). Thornton led the Sharks with five shots on goal.
Marleau – Thornton - Pavelski
Clowe – Couture - Havlat
Mitchell - Moore - Galiardi
Winnik – Desjardins - Wingels
Vlasic - Boyle
Murray - Burns
Braun - Demers
Perron – Backes – Oshie
Steen – Berglund – McDonald
Sobotka – Arnott – Langenbrunner
D’Agostini – Nichol – Crombeen
Colaiacovo – Pietrangelo
Russell – Polak
Jackman – Shattenkirk
Thur., April 12 GAME 1 @ St. Louis 4:30pm - Sharks win 3-2 in 2nd OT
Sat., April 14 GAME 2 @ St. Louis 4:30pm - Blues win 3-0
Mon., April 16 GAME 3 @ San Jose 7pm
Thur., April 19 GAME 4 @ San Jose 7:30pm
*Sat., April 21 GAME 5 @ St. Louis 4:30pm
*Mon., April 23 GAME 6 @ San Jose TBD
*Wed., April 26 GAME 7 @ St. Louis TBD
by Jonathan Okanes, SJSHARKS.com
Vladimir Sobotka was credited with a goal on the first shot of the game after Vlasic's gaffe. David Backes and Andy McDonald also scored, and T.J. Oshie had two assists in the Blues' first playoff victory since 2004.
Halak's left leg was bent underneath his body early in second period after Blues defenseman Barret Jackman slid into him. Halak finished with 12 saves, and Elliott stopped 17 shots the rest of the way.
The Blues announced midway through the second period that Halak was expected to return, but he never made it back to the bench. Elliott was hindered at the end of the regular season by an undisclosed upper-body injury, but was the backup for Game 1.
Halak and Elliott combined for 15 shutouts in the regular season, tying a modern NHL record, and won the Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed. Elliott was quite the luxury as a backup after setting a modern NHL record with a 1.56 goals-against average and nine of the shutouts.
Antti Niemi made 29 saves for the seventh-seeded Sharks, who were shut out in both regular-season meetings in St. Louis, with Halak and Elliott getting one apiece.
The game turned feisty at the finish, with Blues defenseman Roman Polak and Sharks defenseman Justin Braun tangling after the final horn.
Games 3 and 4 are in San Jose on Monday and Thursday nights.
The Blues set a franchise record with 30 home victories, but had dropped three in a row after losing 3-2 in double overtime in Game 1. They had the lead on the game's first shot, thanks to Vlasic's mistake.
Sobotka's wrist shot from above the left circle handcuffed Niemi, trickling between the goalie's pads, and was sitting in the crease. Vlasic attempted to swat it out on his backhand but instead tapped it into the net for Sobotka's third career playoff goal at 1:31.
The Sharks controlled play most of the rest of the period, and Joe Pavelski hit the goalpost with just under seven minutes to go, but they couldn't get the puck past Halak.
Backes, who didn't take a shot in Game 1, made it 2-0 with a one-timer from Oshie at 13:49 of the second period. McDonald scored in the final minute with the Blues on a two-man advantage.
Elliott's regular-season numbers topped Halak's. But Halak got the nod the first two games likely because of past playoff success combined with Elliott's 1-2 record and 4.14 career goals-against average in the postseason plus the injury.
Elliott didn't face a shot for nearly 7 minutes as the Blues gave him plenty of time to get comfortable in the net, and when Backes made it 2-0 with just over 6 minutes left the Sharks had been outshot 13-6 for the period.
Elliott was tested at the end of the period, stretching for a toe save on Logan Couture's wraparound for perhaps his best save.
Notes: Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter got a huge ovation in the third period, displaying his two World Series rings with the camera panning out to the Blues shirt he was wearing. Among other luminaries at Game 2 were Cardinals teammate David Freese, Blues Hall of Famer Brett Hull and actor Jon Hamm.... The game was delayed a few minutes early in the first period when the Blues' bench broke. A replacement was installed between periods. ... Non-fighters Pavelski and Kris Russell tangled in the second period. Russell had no majors during the regular season and Pavelski had just one.