The St. Louis Blues rediscovered their offensive touch, and maybe saved their season, in a 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 of the Western Conference final Saturday night.
The Blues scored twice in each period, chasing Martin Jones midway through the second period. The Sharks starter was coming off back-to-back shutouts over St. Louis before being lit up for four goals on 19 shots.
Kyle Brodziak paced the Blues attack with the first postseason multi-goal game of his career. Troy Brouwer also lit the lamp twice, with Jori Lehtera and Alex Pietrangelo adding tallies. Jake Allen, making his first start of the playoffs, stopped 31 of 34 shots to earn the win.
San Jose, which trailed 4-0 after the second period, made things interesting in the third. Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson scored in the final stanza, but the Sharks couldn't quite narrow the gap. James Reimer made six saves on seven shots in relief of Jones.
The series is now deadlocked at two games apiece. Game 5 is Monday night in St. Louis (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS).
Here's a quick look at the key moments in the contest:
Joe Thornton might be the most accurate passer in the league, but even Jumbo isn't immune from putting one into the rough on occasion.
The Sharks were trailing by two in the second period when an interference call on St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk put the home team on the power play. The Sharks had the Blues hemmed deep in their own zone when the normally reliable Thornton, perhaps looking for Logan Couture, instead sent the puck into the abyss.
St. Louis forward Jaden Schwartz picked it up off the wall and broke out on a short-handed two-on-one. His pass to Brodziak was on the money, and put San Jose into a hole from which it wouldn't recover.
Gif of the Night, Part I
About the only box the Blues didn't check in Game 4 was getting star forward Vladimir Tarasenko off the schneid. Not that he didn't have his chances.
The Blues were pressing in the second period when Robby Fabbri danced around Jones and just missed on his attempt to slide one past him into the short side. With the keeper out of position and the puck sliding through the crease, Brent Burns dove into the paint to knock the loose puck away... but swept it directly onto the stick of Tarasenko. With the net wide open, he simply had to elevate it over the prone defender. And then this happened:
That's one he buries nine times out of 10, but the way his luck is going in this series that failure was almost inevitable.
Gif of the Night, Part II
Jori Lehtera took advantage of some scrambly defense to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead at the 10:11 mark of the first, just two seconds after Jones made what might have been the best save of the playoffs.
Have to feel for Jones. Doesn't seem right to allow a goal right after making a save like that.
Notable Number: 8
With Reimer coming in to replace Jones in the second period, we've now seen each of the four conference finals teams use both of their goalies, the first time that’s happened since 1980, as per Sportsnet Stats.
What It Means
Apparently this series, just like the Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay tilt in the East, wasn't over after Game 3 after all.
The Blues got back on even terms by delivering their Blues-iest performance since Game 7 of their second-round series with the Dallas Stars. They were nasty and heavy on the forecheck and relentless on the back check. Quick to loose pucks and opportunistic with their chances. “We played fast. We played physical. We created turnovers. We have to play like that to win,” coach Ken Hitchcock said.
The Blues also benefited from a terrific turn from Allen. He might have been a bit generous with his rebounds, but he made the stops he had to in order to keep the Sharks at bay.
While Hitchcock wouldn't commit, Allen seems certain to get the call again in Game 5. If he does, spare a kind thought for Brian Elliott, who has to be wondering where that goal support was when he was between the pipes for Games 2 and 3.
No official word yet what kept David Backes on the bench for the second and third periods. The captain took a hard hit from Burns in the first that may have left him dinged up, but Hitchcock believes Backes “should be good to go” for Game 5.
For the Sharks, this one will go down as a wasted opportunity. They had a chance to put their boots on the collective necks of the Blues, but never came close to matching their intensity. And the defensive structure that frustrated the Blues in Games 2 and 3? That was nowhere to be found.
“We didn’t execute tonight,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “We got burnt. We got what we deserved because of our execution.”
Now they head to St. Louis wondering whether they've missed their best chance to put a very good team down. DeBoer though seemed unconcerned.
“We’ve had some nights like this in the playoffs,” he said. “We’ve responded the right way after it. We’ve got a real honest group. They know where their game’s at, what’s good enough, what isn't. We'll get it fixed.”