With the combined efforts of Second Star of the Game Martin Jones and Paul Martin’s three blocks, the Sharks shutout the Blues 4-0 in St. Louis to level the Western Conference Finals at a game apiece.
The Sharks struck quickly, as Tommy Wingels scored a wrister only 2:07 into the contest, assisted by Dainius Zubrus and Justin Braun (his fourth helper of the playoffs). Heading back towards the blue line along the far boards, Wingels pass to Braun, who dumped back into the zone to Zubrus. Zubrus advanced to the far face-off dot and found the attacking center, who scored on Brian Elliott’s stick side. Elliott made the initial save on Wingels’ attempt, but was unable completely contain the trickling puck that proved to be the winning tally.
It was only the second shot faced by Elliott, but it foretold the way the night would go for the Notes.
With 8:34 remaining in the frame, David Backes was charged and found guilty of tripping Tomas Hertl in the Sharks‘ attacking zone. His sentence: two minutes in the sin bin. The Blues continued the trend they set in the first game with their fourth straight penalty kill against the Sharks, allowing only three shots against.
Almost immediately after Backes returned to the ice (12 seconds later, to be exact), Chris Tierney returned the favor by tripping Kevin Shattenkirk, but the Notes‘ power play was equally successful as San Jose‘s, failing to score on three shots on goal. Due in part to that, the contest entered the first intermission with San Jose leading 1-0.
The game certainly began favoring the Sharks, made evident by their tally, but the Blues started getting their skates under them to get the game to be more of back-and-forth, even affair. The Sharks led the frame’s shot totals (10 to nine), but the Blues actually led in face-off wins (60%), blocks (seven to two), takeaways (seven to three) and hits (14 to 11).
After resuming the back-and-forth nature in the second, Third Star Logan Couture was caught holding Jori Lehtera at the 4:45 mark. Fortunately for him and his squad, San Jose earned their second straight penalty kill of the night to keep the Notes off the board.
A second after completing the kill, the Sharks went to the power play on a Troy Brouwer slashing penalty against First Star Brent Burns. Burns took offense to that and made him pay only 18 seconds later with a wicked snap shot, assisted by Joe Pavelski (his sixth helper of the playoffs) and Couture. This play was especially lopsided, as Alexander Steen was in the process of returning from the bench with a replacement stick. Just before receiving a hit from Steen (on his way to the bench) at the blue line, Burns passed across ice to Patrick Marleau, who dumped into the zone to Couture. Couture centered into the center of the zone for Pavelski, who found the crashing Burns at the left face-off dot to set up his snapper that set the score at 2-0.
The Sharks got their third attempt at the power play at the 8:03 mark when the wily Steve Ott interfered with Pavelski along the far boards. Luckily for the Blues, they were able to complete this kill to maintain the score differential at two tallies.
Patric Berglund took a rough hit into the open door jam at the completion of that kill that forced him to the dressing room. He did return to the ice with a little over four minutes remaining in the frame.
Once again, only one goal was struck in the period, and this frame was decidedly more in San Jose‘s favor even though Brouwer had a great opportunity stopped by the goal post. They led the period in shots (nine to six) and giveaways (one to three), while the Blues had face-offs (52%), blocks (14 to six), takeaways (eight to five) and hits (30 to 20) to their credit.
Off a face-off only 32 seconds into the third period, Marleau hi-sticked Carl Gunnarsson and drew blood, earning him a double minor. San Jose was once again up to the challenge, making their fourth kill of the night. They were further rewarded at the five minute mark when Jay Bouwmeester slashed Joe Thornton, but were unable to take advantage.
As would be expected, the Blues certainly increased their offensive pressure in the third period. With 8:24 remaining in the frame, the Notes had already notched eight shots on goal to San Jose‘s three.
Those attempts came to a grinding halt at that mark though, as Brouwer took his second seat in the penalty box of the night for hi-sticking Martin. Just like the first time, Burns made him pay, this time with a slap shot assisted by Marleau and Couture (his 12th helper of the postseason). The play looked like a basketball “extra pass” motion wrapping around the three-point arc. Couture collected a pass along the near boards and passed to Marleau at the point, who found Burns waiting outside the far face-off circle, scoring over Elliott’s glove hand.
Ex-Blue Roman Polak gave the Blues some life with 6:41 remaining when he interfered with Backes, made even worse for San Jose when Martin slashed Brouwer, giving St. Louis 24 seconds of 5-on-3. After Polak served his complete time, Ken Hitchcock summoned Elliott to the bench for an extra attacker for a 6-on-4 advantage, but it wasn’t enough to get the Notes on the board.
Elliott remained on the bench to give the Blues a 6-on-5, but it was not the Notes that took advantage. With 19 seconds remaining, Zubrus scored his first goal of the postseason setting the score at the 4-0 final.
Jones earns the shutout victory after saving all 26 shots he faced, while Elliott takes the loss, saving 20 of 23 (87%).
The series now leveled at a game apiece, the action relocates to the SAP Center. Game 3 takes place Thursday at 9 p.m. eastern and may be viewed on CBC, NBCSN or TVAS.