Blues Win 4-1 in Playoff Atmosphere at SAP Center

March 16, 2017

NHL, San Jose Sharks

St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko (91) scores an empty net goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks Thursday, March 16, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

By Matthew Harrington

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In a game that resembled a Stanley Cup playoff tilt, the St. Louis Blues topped the San Jose Sharks 4-1 at the SAP Center Thursday night. St. Louis received a pair of goals from Vladimir Tarasenko, while grinders Scott Upshall and Zach Sanford also scored for the Blue Notes. Marc-Edouard Vlasic netted the lone goal for the Sharks on a night when the much-needed power play went 0-for-2.

“The better team won tonight,” said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. “That usually happens in this league.”

The Blues, looking for revenge after being eliminated in the Western Conference Final by San Jose last season, jumped on the early lead on a fluky goal by Upshall. Brent Burns passed the puck out of the Sharks defensive end, but his pass was intercepted by Upshall. With Martin trying to recover for his defensive partner, netminder Aaron Dell was screened on what would normally be a harmless shot inside the zone. Instead, the puck beat Dell for a 1-0 Blues lead and Upshall’s 8th goal of the year with 3:`10 left in the first period.

“I thought we fought the puck a bit,” said Sharks goalie Aaron Dell. “We got some bad bounces. It didn’t go our way.”

Vlasic would get a San Jose bounce in the waning moments of the period though. He fired a shot that, upon first glance appeared to be tipped by Joel Ward between a defender’s skates. Ultimately the official scorers saw that the puck hit off the Blues defenseman before beating Carter Hutton for the San Jose goal 2:15 away from first intermission.

Sanford’s game-winning goal was another example of the bounces going against the Sharks in a tight affair. The forward was parked on the goal post on the opposite side of possession, but a Jay Bouwmeester shot went wide of the net and bounced off the end boards to Sanford. The gritty forward knocked in the puck for his 3rd goal of the year 5:49 into the second period.

“When we got behind there was an opportunity there to push,” said DeBoer. “Traditionally, we find a desperation level despite where we are in the standings to win a game. We didn’t get that push tonight.”

Tarasenko’s first of two goals came on a similar play with St. Louis on the power play just over 8 minutes into the 3rd. Tarensko was the beneficiary of a Alex Steen shot rebounding to the opposite post where the Russian sniper would get the tap-in goal for a 3-1 lead 8:34 into the third. The other Alex, Pietrangelo, also picked up an assist on the strike. Tarasenko would add the empty-net goal to put his season total at 34.

“That’s how the game went for us,” said Dell. “The third one went off (Justin) Braun . The bounce on the empty netter off Brent Burn’s foot, that’s the story of the game.”

The Blues mucked up the neutral zone, stifling any Sharks breakout attempts. They limited San Jose to only 20 shots on goal to St. Louis’ 36. The Blues also scored on their lone power play attempt.

San Jose welcomes Anaheim to town Saturday night for a rivalry tilt. It will likely be another playoff atmosphere with the Ducks in second place behind the Sharks for Pacific Division lead.

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