St Louis Blues goaltender Joel Hofer stopped 23 shots in his first NHL game against the San Jose Sharks on Thu Nov 4, 2021 at SAP Center (AP News photo)
By Mary Walsh
SAN JOSE- The San Jose Sharks lost 5-3 to the St. Louis Blues Thursday. Blues goals came from Brandon Saad (2), Pavel Buchnevich, James Neal and Robert Thomas. Joel Hofer, in his first NHL game, made 23 saves for the win. Sharks goals came from Brent Burns, Logan Couture and Nick Merkley. Adin Hill made 23 saves in the loss.
After the game, Assistant Coach John MacLean was asked whether the Sharks let a win slip away here. He said: “No game’s a given here in the NHL. I mean, yeah we had some opportunities and we let a couple of opportunities slip away.” He summarized the loss as “just one of those games. We can’t forget that St. Louis is a pretty good hockey club and when they got the lead they shut’er down pretty good, they didn’t give us a lot after that.”
The Sharks scored a power play goal at 7:13 of the first. The teams were playing 5 on 3 due to several overlapping penalties. Burns’s one-timer went by three skaters and under Joel Hofer. Assists went to Tomas Hertl and Alexander Barabanov.
Brandon Saad tied it up with a short-handed goal as the Sharks power play was winding down. Tyler Bozak carried the puck into the zone along the boards and made a pass across the ice to Saad on the other side of the ice, avoiding two Sharks defenders. Saad’s quick shot went by Hill on the far side.
Logan Couture got the lead back for the Sharks with his own short-handed goal at 17:16. Couture stole the puck from [x]Faulk in the neutral zone before making a run into the o-zone. His wrist shot snuck under Hofer. Rudolfs Balcers got an assist.
The Sharks out-shot the Blues 12-7 in the first. Their power plays got seven shots on goal and their penalty kill gave up one shot. They also did well in the face-off circle, winning 56% of the draws.
The Blues tied it again at 4:20 of the second. Ivan Barbashev intercepted the puck in the o-zone and found Pavel Buchnevich by the face-off dot with a quick pass. Buchnevich shot it right in and beat Hill over the glove. Assists went to Barbashev and Klim Kostin.
Nick Merkley put the Sharks ahead again less than 30 seconds later. Merkley tipped Mario Ferraro’s shot, sending the puck between Jake Walman’s skates and under Hofer for his first of the season. Assists went to Ferraro and Burns.
Saad tied it again with his second of the night at 8:09. A slick wrist shot from the face-off dot went off the post and in on the far side. Assists went to Robert Thomas and David Perron.
James Neal gave the Blues their first lead of the night at 11:42. Hill stopped Walman’s shot from the point but Neal picked up the rebound and swept it around the Sharks’s goaltender. Assists went to Walman and Tyler Bozak.
The Blues edged the Sharks in the face-off circle in the second period, 10 wins to 9. They also out-shot the Sharks 12-8. Their power play got three shots on goal.
Midway through the third period, Nikko Mikkola sent Logan Couture into the boards. Couture got up slowly and walked into the tunnel but he returned to the bench instead of going to the dressing room. After the game he said he was fine.
Robert Thomas scored an empty-netter with a minute left. Assists went to Colton Parayko and Hofer.
In the final tally, the Sharks won 58% of the face-offs. The Blues outshot the Sharks 28-26. The Sharks had nine shots on the power play and the Blues had four.
Thursday’s game was William Eklund’s ninth game. If he plays another with the Sharks, he cannot be sent down without triggering his entry level contract.
Due to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, the Sharks are still without forwards Keving Labanc, Timo Meier, and Matt Nieto, and defensemen Erik Karlsson, Jake Middleton, Radim Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Head Coach Bob Boughner, Head Trainer Ray Tufts and Equipment Manager Mike Aldrich are also out.
Of the Sharks’ young defensemen, John MacLean said: “One of the hardest positions to break into the National Hockey League is playing defense… the experiences they get, they played out of necessity, and you don’t jump on them because they gave a good solid effort.”
Logan Couture also talked about how the inexperienced players are doing:
“The guys that have stepped in and played their second or third NHL games have played well and they’ve given it all they have. The veterans, we can do a better job protecting those guys, playing out of our end and in their end a little bit more.”
The Sharks next play on Saturday at home, against the New Jersey Devils at 7:30 PM PT.