Sharks beat Blues in Game 2 to even Western Conference finals
Brent Burns struck twice on the power play and Martin Jones stopped 26 shots to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 4–0 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night.
The Sharks were two for five with the extra man after being blanked on three chances in a Game 1 loss.
Tommy Wingels opened the scoring for San Jose, which controlled the game from start to finish with their defensive play and aggressive puck pursuit. Dainius Zubrus, with an empty-netter, provided some insurance.
Jones was full value in picking up his second shutout in his past three starts. The rookie netminder was well protected by his defense, but came up big when called upon.
With the win, the Sharks even the series at a game apiece. The series now moves on to San Jose for Game 3 Thursday night (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS).
Here are some quick hits on Game 2:
Down 2–0 and unable to generate any kind of response to San Jose’s relentless puck pressure, the Blues needed a gift to get back in the game. They got one wrapped in a bow just 32 seconds into the third when Patrick Marleau was handed a double minor for carelessly high sticking Carl Gunnarsson off the draw.
All they needed was one goal to get back in the game. But these were the same Blues that struggled to pierce the San Jose defense through the first two periods. An extra man wasn't going to solve those problems. They sent passes wide. They were beaten to pucks. They passed on shot attempts. And they never quite matched the intensity of the Sharks’ penalty killers.
They managed just four shots, and for each of them, Jones had an answer. Vladimir Tarasenko got one solid chance through a screen early, and Jaden Schwartz was robbed late on a two-footer off a nice feed by Paul Stastny. And poor Troy Brouwer. The big winger, who was in the box for both of Burns's power play goals, was all alone in the low slot but couldn’t put it past the Sharks keeper.
Credit to the Sharks for their aggressive PK, but the Blues were undone just as they were at even strength: by their own sloppy execution.
GIF of the Game
Ouch! Pretty sure Alex Steen’s leg is not supposed to bend this way.
Steen missed a shift after this late first-period collision with Zubrus, but was back on the bench for the start of the second. Tough guy.
There was no penalty on the play—that’s one thing, at least, that Zubrus managed to dodge.
Notable Number: 0
As in the number of turnovers committed by Burns. After a sloppy performance in Game 1, the big defender was a solid guardian of the puck in Game 2. His reads were better and his passes sharper. That kept San Jose moving in transition and prevented the Blues from creating chances on the counterattack as they did in the opener.
What It Means
The Sharks ended a four-game road losing streak and, more important, avoided falling into the dreaded 2–0 hole. They return home for Thursday’s game confident in the integrity of their defensive scheme, the depth that allows them to roll all four lines and three defensive pairs and their ability to set a pace that the Blues haven’t yet matched.
“They got their ‘A’ game going right now,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Sharks. “We’ve played two ‘B’ games. I think, quite frankly, we’re fortunate that it’s 1–1. We’ll take 1–1 right now with the way we played.”
The only reason St. Louis managed that split was the play of Brian Elliott in the opener. He was solid again in Game 2, but all he could do was keep the score respectable. The result was never in doubt. This team has been outplayed in five of six periods now by the Sharks, and has turned in three subpar efforts in its past four games.
“We have another level we can play at,” Hitchcock said. “We've seen it. It hasn’t come out at home as much as it has in other buildings for whatever reason.”
This wasn’t a matter of a team getting too cute trying to entertain the home fans, though. The Blues were outworked, start to finish. The elements that should be working in their favor—the penalty kill, their forward depth—aren’t making a difference. And now they face going to San Jose, where Peter DeBoer will have last change, which could free up the Joe Thornton–Joe Pavelski–Tomas Hertl line to do some real damage.
Expect Hitchcock to make some changes in the lineup for the next one. Steve Ott took a terrible penalty in the third, and might be a little out of his depth. Look for Dmitri Jaskin to make an appearance to add some scoring touch and speed to the Blues’ bottom six.