The San Jose Sharks bounced back from their worst performance of the playoffs to rout the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Monday night.
The 6-3 win gives the Sharks a 3-2 series lead and pushes the Blues to the brink of elimination.
Joe Pavelski's second goal of the game on a had-to-see-it tip of a Brent Burns shot just 16 seconds into the third broke a 3-3 tie and sent the Sharks on to victory. San Jose also got a pair from Joel Ward, who counted one of two power play marker the Sharks scored on the night, along with singles from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Chris Tierney. Goalie Martin Jones wasn't particularly sharp, but was assisted by a stout defense that allowed just 12 shots over the final 40 minutes. He stopped 18 of 21 St. Louis shots for the win.
Jaden Schwartz, with his first in 14 games, Troy Brouwer, and Robby Fabbri replied for the Blues.
The series resumes Wednesday in San Jose (9 ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS) where San Jose will look to clinch the series and make its first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
Here are some quick hits on Game 5:
This might have been death by a thousand cuts for the Blues if not for one massive self-inflicted wound. Just moments into the third period, defensemen Jay Bouwmeester sent a breakout attempt off the wall and all the way down for an icing call. That forced the Patrik Berglund line to stay on the ice for a defensive zone faceoff for St. Louis. Sharks coach Pete DeBoer took advantage, sending Joe Thornton's line over the boards. Eight seconds later, the puck was in the back of the Blues’ net. Away from the tight checking and peerless faceoff presence of Paul Stastny, Pavelski won the draw from Berglund. The puck found its way to Burns, who rifled a shot from the point. His blast was probably going three feet wide until Pavelski reached out for a miraculous tip that Jake Allen had no chance on. Just 16 seconds in, the Sharks had a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish.
Vine of the Night
Speaking of beauty goals, take another look at this out-of-midair stroke from Brouwer. St. Louis hasn't seen a swing this sweet since Stan Musial was packin' 'em in at Sportsman's Park.
Tweet of the Night
I know this guy's out of work—maybe we can all chip in and buy him a new hat?
Notable Number: 0
As in, another zero impact performance from St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko. It's now five games in and he's still looking for his first point of the series after another oh-fer Monday night.
Tarasenko is a special player, but as the pressure weighs down on him you can almost see the wheels spinning behind his eyes every time he touches the puck. He overthought his first three shot attempts so long that each one was blocked. Then, in the third, he found himself all alone in the slot and passed up the chance. Coach Ken Hitchcock said the 40-goal scorer was learning some hard lessons in this series. Fair enough. But you have to wonder if the Blues can win this series without their gamebreaker breaking a single game.
What It Means
The Blues are in trouble. Deep, deep trouble. Not that they can't go into San Jose and take a game, but they're not going to get it done playing like this. Undisciplined penalties and unforced errors cost them dearly in Game 5.
"If we could have eliminated the errors, there was a tremendous amount of effort today, but we did make big errors," Hitchcock said. "They came back and haunted us."
So did some suspect goaltending. In the last two games, Allen has allowed seven goals. Not all of them were soft, but enough were that he's put coach Ken Hitchcock in a tough spot. He praised Allen's effort Monday night, but wouldn't commit to coming back with him in Game 6. With the season on the line, it might be Brian Elliott getting the call for the must-win contest.
For the Sharks, this was arguably the biggest win in franchise history. Now they have two chances, including one at SAP Center Wednesday night, to seal the deal and earn that long-awaited first trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Not that they want to look at it that way.
"I think we're reminding ourselves we're not there yet," DeBoer told the media after the win. "There's a lot of heavy lifting left. We know the team on the other side there. They're not going away. We've been close before and let teams off the mat. It's a great opportunity for us, but there's a lot of work left to do before we can start thinking about that."