Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks
By Mary Walsh
SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks defeated the St. Louis Blues 6-3 Saturday, taking a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Final series. Timo Meier and Logan Couture created a stir with two goals each, while forwards Joe Pavelski and Kevin Labanc added goals to complete that hefty score. Blues goals came from Joel Edmundson, Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak. Sharks goaltender Martin Jones made 28 saves for the win, while Jordan Binnington made 19 saves for the Blues.
After the game, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was asked about how his team shut down the Blues’ formidable Tarasenko line, just as they had shut down Colorado’s top line in the previous series. DeBoer said:
St. Louis is built a little different. Obviously, they have that line, but I think they also have a couple other lines that are very good too. Their third line might have been their most dangerous line in the last series and I thought was good again tonight, got a goal in the third period. So they’re built differently. I think this is going to be more of a team effort to shut down their group and if we can get the match ups we want, great. If we can’t, the guys out there are going to have to get the job done.
Series predictions have some trends to rely on. By the end of the second round, the Sharks seemed to have shed their habit of giving up a goal in the first minute of the game, and they had scored the most goals in the 2019 playoffs. They had also given up the most third period goals. St. Louis was second in scoring third period goals and had given up 10 fewer goals per game than the Sharks. Both teams have had formidable penalty kills, but less reliable power plays.
The Sharks started the scoring early in the first after taking the puck away from the Blues in the neutral zone. Logan Couture and Gus Nyquist broke away from the Blues defense at the blue line and ended up 2-on-1 against Joel Edmundson. Nyquist passed across and Couture put it away for his 10th of the playoffs. The time of the goal was 3:31.
That first goal ignited the Blues, at least in terms of hits. Sundry contact was ignored by the officials, including a curious pair of hits on Tomas Hertl and an elbow to Timo Meier’s head.
The Blues tied the game with an end-to-end play by Jaden Schwartz at 9:13. Schwartz took Logan Couture down behind the Blues net without any reaction from the officials. He then skated the puck all the way down and shot it off of Joel Edmundson. It was Edmundson’s first of the playoffs. Assists went to Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko.
Joe Pavelski got the lead back for the Sharks in a 5-on-3 power play at 11:24. Brent Burns sent the puck to him off to the side of the net. Pavelski stopped the hard pass and shot it. Binnington got his pad in the way and Pavelski had to reach in and give the puck a couple of extra taps to get it over the pad. It was Pavelski’s fourth of the playoffs and his second since returning from injury. Assists went to Burns and Erik Karlsson.
Despite having to kill two penalties, the Blues led the Sharks in shots in the first period, 10-9. The Sharks had the edge in face-offs, winning 59%.
Kevin Labanc added to the Sharks’ tally at 7:41 of the second. He skated in down the left boards then took a hard right at the face-off circle. He took the shot as he exited the circle and the puck went through three skaters. The traffic may have even disguised the fact that Labanc was moving to shoot, so the goaltender had no chance. An assist on Labanc’s fourth of the playoffs went to Joe Thornton.
Ryan O’Reilly scored a tricky goal at 8:58 to make it 3-2. He got control of a sluggish rebound near the blue paint, drew it back until Martin Jones came out for the shot, then went around the goaltender and nudged it over the line. Assists went to David Perron and Sammy Blais. It was O’Reilly’s third of the playoffs.
Timo Meier scored at 10:24 after a beautiful poke check by Logan Couture at the blue line, keeping the puck in. Meier was pursuing the checked skater and was ready to turn and take it back to the net. He avoided the pursuing defensemen and waited until Binnington was down, then, while skating left, reached right to guide the puck around the goalie’s outstretched skate and into the net. Couture got the assist. It was Meier’s fourth of the playoffs.
The Blues got their first power play at 13:23. The Sharks did not let any shots get through but one of the attempts sent Goodrow limping to the bench.
The Sharks added another at 17:34 of the second, this one attributed to Timo Meier. Meier was behind the net and trying to move the puck forward. Blues defenseman Vince Dunn got in the way. His skate was in the perfect position to redirect the puck in behind his own goaltender. Assists went to Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Gus Nyquist.
The second period shots were again very close, this time 11-9 Sharks. The Sharks won 58% of the second period face-offs.
Their third period scoring success in these playoffs made it all the less surprising when the Blues made it 5-3 at 13:01 of the third.
After several attempts to Jones’ right, the puck got across to the other side where Tyler Bozak was waiting to put it in. It was Bozak’s third of the playoffs. Assists went to Pat Maroon and Vince Dunn.
The Blues pulled their goaltender with 4:39 left in the game. The Sharks had their hands full defending those six skaters, but managed a couple of shots at the empty net. Logan Couture finally got one of them in the net at 17:39. Assists went to Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane.
Fisticuffs followed at the Sharks end. Barclay Goodrow was sent off after intervening in someone else’s dispute, for roughing against Robert Bortuzzo. Goodrow also got a misconduct against Bortuzzo. Bortuzzo was sent off for roughing against Goodrow and received an additional misconduct. They each got five minutes. Brenden Dillon and Oskar Sundqvist got two minutes each for roughing. All of that went down at 17:55.
For a clue to what the Blues will be working on before Game 2, here is what Blues head coach Craig Berube had to say after Game 1:
I thought that third period we got to our game, we were aggressive, we’re on the forecheck, controlled the puck in the offensive zone. We didn’t get there enough tonight. In the first period it was ok, I thought it was a pretty good first period other than the penalties. But second period we just got caught in that three-quarter ice game by them, they did a good job checking, forced some things on us and we got caught in some turnovers and they capitalized on them.
Game 2 will be on Monday in San Jose at the SAP Center at 6:00 PM PT.