Sharks shutout Blues for second straight game, take 2-1 series lead

The St. Louis Blues opted for skill over size and grit in Game 3. Out of the lineup were forwards Steve Ott and Scottie Upshall and defenseman Joel Edmundson; replaced by Dmitrij Jaskin, Magnus Paajarvi, and Robert Bortuzzo.

It appeared to be the spark the Blues needed. They controlled a majority of the play in the first half of the first period. San Jose was credited with 11 giveaways in the first period to St. Louis’s 3.

Yet the Sharks flipped the switched and turned on the heavy forecheck to get back in control of the game.

With less than five minutes to go in the game, Colton Parayko attempts to make a long pass through the neutral zone. San Jose intercepts the puck. Joe Thornton makes a quick pass to Joe Pavelski who sends it over to Tomas Hertl for the brilliant one timer.

“I thought we really had a great start,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “I thought we had a lot of the things that we wanted to do, we did a great job with them.”

“I think when it went 1-0, there was a period of time, probably seven or eight minutes, that we probably tried to force things offensively. Got a little bit frustrated there … It’s 1-0 hockey game. We got to feel comfortable playing it. We’re in great shape. Then we make a mistake. We cross-ice pass it to a covered guy, it’s a two-on-one that ends up being a three-on-one. It’s in our net. Now we’re coming from behind.”

With 7.5 seconds left in the period, Alex Pietrangelo was whistled for a questionable charging penalty on Hertl.

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The San Jose Sharks ended the first with the 1-0 lead.

The Blues started the second period on a strong note by killing off the remaining 1:53 in Pietrangelo’s penalty despite the Sharks controlled the play the entire time.

San Jose’s dominance with the puck continued throughout the second, and the Blues were defending more than they were creating offense.

The pressure by San Jose was clearly forcing the Blues to overreact.

Robby Fabbri attempts to make a lateral pass near the front of the San Jose net. Joonas Donskoi intercepts and pokes the puck up to Logan Couture. Instead of staying back, Donskoi turns on the jets and gets back into the play behind the rush up the ice.

Couture waits for the perfect play as Donskoi, all alone, gets into position and snipes the one-timer past Elliott.

The Sharks took the 2-0 lead into the locker room.

The third period was interesting to say the least.

It started with Hertl’s second goal of the game on a phenomenal pass from Joe Thornton to give San Jose the 3-0 lead.

The goal came with 13:51 left in the game, and it led to Ken Hitchcock’s decision to pull Brian Elliott. The goaltender allowed 3 goals on 14 shots.

“I didn’t like the third goal,” said Hitchcock. “I thought we needed to catch our breath. I still honestly thought if we could have got a goal, we still had a chance to come back in the game.  I wanted to give us a breath. I didn’t like the coverage on the third goal. I didn’t like the third goal at all.”

Soon after Elliott is pulled, Troy Brouwer hit his second post of the game, and proceeded to take it out on his stick and the visitor’s bench.

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Elliott’s replacement, Jake Allen, came into the game for only 8:33 of total ice time. Hitchcock decided to pull him with 5:31 left.

“Well, I was told by the new school coaches that I’m to pull the goalie earlier, so I’m just following the analytics,” said Hitchcock with a smirk.

Without a goalie, the Blues offered some of their most consistent play of the entire game. They outshot the Sharks 7 to 3 in the third.

“We played really hard, but we had six, they had five,” said Hitch. “I thought even though we kept it in the zone, I’m not sure, did we get any shots on goal?  I’m not sure we did. Maybe one or two. I liked some of the tactics we used.”

The momentum generated came to a screeching halt after Pietrangelo elbowed Donskoi in the head with 44 seconds to go. Allen came back on the ice for the faceoff, and was off again after the Blues cleared their zone.

It was too little too late. Sharks win 3-0 and take a 2-1 series lead.

Martin Jones is credited with his second straight shutout. He has not allowed a goal in 150:45 of game play.

As for the Blues goaltending situation, Hitchcock is faced with a Bruce Boudreau-esque problem. With the exception of the third goal he gave up, Elliott has played relatively well behind a team that can’t score to save their life. Maybe starting Allen will give the team the proverbial “wake up call.”

So, who does Hitch start in Game 4?

“Yeah, I’m going to think about [who to start]. Got two good goalies. Pretty good choice. Can’t lose on either one. But I’ll kind of wait that one out. Kind of sleep on it. Talk to [Jim Corsi, goaltending coach], talk to the coaches, see what they think.”