The two highest scoring postseason teams went at it again Monday night, and did not disappoint as the Sharks won 6-3 to pull within a win of the Stanley Cup Finals.
St. Louis started the night with three straight shots before the Sharks could register their first almost four minutes into play. It didn’t matter though, as Shot No. 2 found the back of the net on a Tomas Hertl backhander, assisted by Marc-Edouard Vlasic and First Star of the Game Joe Pavelski. Third Star Joe Thornton won the face-off at the far dot, which was collected by Pavelski heading towards the point. He passed back to the far boards to Vlasic, who fired a slap shot towards Jake Allen’s net before Troy Brouwer could apply pressure, but Hertl redirected the puck before it reached the crease to get past Allen’s glove.
Following that tally, the Sharks certainly took control of the game, as they had another great scoring opportunity around the 6:30 mark. A San Jose forward collected a rebound in front of a fairly open net, but he elevated the puck too much and it sailed over the cross bar.
Jaden Schwartz leveled the game at the 7:04 mark with a wrister, assisted by David Backes (his seventh helper of the postseason) and Patrik Berglund. Off an initial shot from Kevin Shattenkirk, Berglund collected the rebound around the near face-off dot. He turned around and shot again at Martin Jones’ net, which was once again blocked. From his usual spot right in front of the crease, Backes passed along the goal line to Schwartz, who fired past Jones’ stick side to tie the game at one-all.
With 4:52 remaining in the frame, Brouwer fired a wrister out of midair to give the Blues their second tally. He was assisted by Paul Stastny (his ninth playoff helper), who had fired the initial shot that became the airborne rebound off Jones’ pads, and Alexander Steen. Steen advanced the puck into the zone before running into Hertl, but passed just in time to Stastny who fired from between the face-off dots. Brouwer one-timed his shot from the near face-off circle to beat Jones stick side.
Just like San Jose, the Blues fed off the momentum of that tally to keep the puck almost predominantly in the offensive zone. Although it did not turn into their third goal, the Notes were certainly happy to keep the Sharks off the board for the remainder of the frame, sending the game into intermission at 2-1.
Although St. Louis led on the scoreboard, San Jose statistically had the advantage through the first frame. Their 10 shots were one more than the Blues‘, helped by winning 56% of face-offs. Defensively, their five blocks were two more than St. Louis‘, the same differential as their takeaways (the Sharks had three of those). Giveaways and hits also favored San Jose, as the Sharks committed one fewer turnover and threw four more blows.
The first power play of the game occurred at the 2:38 mark, but it was three players earning seats. Tommy Wingels hit an unaware Shattenkirk, who didn’t take kindly to it and initiated a fight. He was also charged with roughing, which was served by the innocent Second Star Robby Fabbri. The Blues were two seconds from killing the penalty, but Joel Ward was able to score a wild puck to tie the game again at the 4:37 mark. He was assisted by Vlasic and Paul Martin. Martin received a pass at the point and passed to Vlasic, waiting at the top of the near face-off circle. His initial shot on Allen’s net was saved, but wildly bounced off the crossbar and the net-minder’s back. Ward’s quick stick was able to complete the score to level the game at two-all.
St. Louis earned their chance at the power play at the 8:03 mark when Justin Braun held Fabbri, partially because he had thrown a solid hit and fired a quality in the preceding seconds. The Sharks‘ penalty kill stood tall though, so the score remained tied at two.
The second fight of the night was between Roman Polak and Dmitrij Jaskin. The two were tumbled together in the St. Louis offensive zone and, while they were still on the ice, Polak threw a right punch at Jaskin’s head, and again once they’d gotten up. Polak was charged with roughing, and both with fighting, giving the Blues a second power play.
In their first power play attempt, the Blues didn’t notch a shot on goal. They learned from their mistakes and scored on this one with 8:02 remaining in the frame. Fabbri takes credit for the tally, assisted by Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo (his seventh playoff helper). Fabbri begins the play retreating back to the blue line before passing across the zone to Pietrangelo. After getting to the near face-off dot, he passed across the zone to the rookie defenseman in open ice, who found Fabbri at the point to score five-hole on Jones, making him only the second Blues rookie with 15+ points in a postseason.
With 2:52 remaining, Shattenkirk earned a seat in the sin bin for hooking Hertl as he was streaking towards Allen’s crease, although I would guess that many folks in the Bay Area would have been inclined to award a penalty shot. The net result was the same, as the Sharks struck on their second power play with their second power play goal with 1:27 remaining in the frame to level the score again. Pavelski takes credit with a slap shot, assisted by Thornton and Logan Couture (his 14th playoff assist). Patrick Marleau collected the puck along the near boards and dumped further into the goal to Couture, who won a scrum against Carl Gunnarsson to pass behind the net to Thornton. Thornton centered a pass to Pavelski, setting him up to beat Allen over his glove.
Three more shots in the period turned into an extra goal for the Sharks, especially when paired with eight takeaways, only two giveaways and 30 hits through 40 minutes.
The Sharks took a 4-3 lead only 16 seconds after returning to the ice when Pavelski tipped-in his second goal of the game, assisted by Brent Burns (his 13th postseason helper) and Hertl. Off another face-off win (this one courtesy of the goalscorer), Thornton collected and dumped off to Burns, who fired a shot on Allen. Allen blocked the attempt into the near corner where it was collected by Hertl, who returned the puck to Burns at the top of the zone. Burns fired once again from the blue line, which Pavelski redirected under Allen’s glove.
A bad situation got worse for St. Louis when they were caught with too many men on the ice, giving the Sharks the opportunity to go three-for-three on the power play this game. Vladimir Tarasenko took the seat in the box for the Notes at the 4:52 mark. It lasted only 41 seconds before Marleau tripped Parayko, setting the game at four-on-four for 1:19 and ending that opportunity. The four-on-four was exciting, with both teams having solid opportunities, but no score.
St. Louis‘ 41 seconds of the power play was equally as unsuccessful as the Sharks‘, so the score remained 4-3.
With 54 seconds remaining in the regulation, Chris Tierney scored a wrap-around goal on an empty net to secure the victory, assisted by Thornton (his 14th playoff helper). Another empty netter was struck from mid-ice 21 seconds later by Ward, his fourth of the playoffs, setting the score at the 6-3 final.
Jones earns the win after saving 18 of the 21 shots he faced (85.7%), while Allen takes the loss, saving 21 of 25 (84%).
Game 6 will take place on May 25 in San Jose at 9 p.m. eastern. It may be viewed on CBC, NBCSN or TVAS.
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