The Western Conference Final was predicted to be a physical series and Game 1 lived up to that expectation.
The Blues came out aggressively, dishing out plenty of hits and keeping the game physical, but costly turnovers and two quick penalties led to their demise as the Sharks took over to win 6–3. St. Louis opened up with multiple hard hits, but it was one from the Sharks that truly got things rolling for the night.
Timo Meier knocked down Alex Pietrangelo in the neutral zone, and pushed the puck up to Gustav Nyquist who was moving with Logan Couture on an odd-man rush. Couture one-timed it to open up the scoring 3:31 into the game. This line ended up stealing the show, with Couture and Meier each recording two goals and an assist, and Nyquist notching two assists throughout the night.
Couture had a rough moment midway through the first when St. Louis evened things up. The play started when Couture slid hard into the boards on a rush with Jaden Schwartz chasing him. The Blues got possession and Joel Edmundson deflected a shot from Schwartz to tie it. Shortly after, Jay Bouwmeester was called for interference and then Colton Parayko was called for slashing to give San Jose 1:03 of 5-on-3. Joe Pavelski offered a display of his ridiculous hand-eye coordination on the two-man advantage, batting at his own rebound in the air twice before getting the puck past Jordan Binnington’s pads.
Binnington, who didn’t play in any of the Blues’ regular-season games against San Jose, gave up five goals on 24 shots, but none were really on him. Three came off turnovers, one when two of his teammates were in the box (and Pavelski made a freakish play) and the last was just an unlucky bounce off his teammate’s skate. The Sharks got their first real look at Binnington, but mostly just saw the Blues leaving their star netminder exposed, something St. Louis will want to tidy up before Game 2 on Monday.
The teams continued to trade goals in the second period, with Kevin Lebanc’s snapshot making it through traffic to give the Sharks a 3–1 lead. The Blues responded about a minute later when Ryan O’Reilly picked up a rebound, offered a nifty move and tucked the puck behind Martin Jones, who had come out of his crease.
But then it was suddenly Timo time. When Couture poke-checked Parayko near the blue line, Meier picked the puck up and maneuvered around Bouwmeester to backhand past Binnington. Meier tallied again when a shot bounced off Blues defenseman Vince Dunn’s skate and past Binnington.
St. Louis’s third line, which has been its most dominate line of late, stepped up again late when a Tyler Bozak shot at a sharp angle that went off Jones’s pad and into the net to make it 5–3. Blues coach Craig Berube pulled Binnington with 4:39 left in the third, and put the third line out there again. Despite generating several scoring chances, nothing got past Jones. Couture got the empty-netter with 2:21 left for his second goal of the night and his 11th of the postseason.