April 16, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) saves a shot from St. Louis Blues right wing Jamie Langenbrunner (15) during the third period of game three of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at HP Pavilion. St. Louis defeated San Jose 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Sharks Rally Falls Short as Blues Take Game Three 4-3

A furious rally by the San Jose Sharks in the final three minutes of the third period would fall one goal short as the St Louis Blues would go onto take Game 3 from team teal by a 4-3 score. The victory gives the Blues a 2-1 lead in the best of seven series as it moves towards Game 4 this Thursday, forcing the Sharks into a must win situation. The Blues took advantage of a weak team teal penalty kill as St Louis would score three times on power play opportunities. The Blues basically controlled much of the contest before the Sharks late rally.

Brian Elliott started in goal in place of the injured Jaroslav Halak and picked up where he left off from in Game Two and would make 26 saves on the evening. Elliott’s shut out string ended late in the first period when Brent Burns’ scored a power play goal late in the first period to draw the Sharks even. Elliott just dusted himself after that and would keep the Sharks out of the net for the better part of two periods afterwards. The Sharks meanwhile could not be that happy with their effort here as they were always a step behind both defensively and in special teams, while also struggling offensively. During the three power plays in which they were able to convert these scoring chances into goals, two of the three goals scored within 30 seconds of St Louis getting the man advantage. The Blues control of the puck here was so effective that on two of the three scores no Shark even touched the puck or seemingly had any chance at it.

Recapping Game 3:

Getting Down To Business- Two nights after the brawl fest that ended game two, it seemed that both teams were just more interested in getting down to the business of playoff hockey. Sharks goalie Antti Niemi would get a challenge early as he held of a Blues barrage of shots on net from Jason Arnott, Vladimir Sobotka and Barret Jackman. Niemi would later make two strong saves on back to back shots on goal by T.J. Oshie. The Sharks meanwhile seemed to have some problems getting themselves set in the Blues zone. An early power play opportunity would come team teal’s way as the Blues’ Carlo Colaiacovo would draw an interference penalty. The Sharks did their best during this power play chance, however the best efforts of up close shots on goal by Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau were all turned away by Elliott.

Later team teal would find themselves getting into penalty trouble themselves as Tommy Wingels would draw a high sticking penalty. The Blues wasted little time with this power play opportunity as Patrick Berglund would tip on a Arnott slap shot from the point, catching Niemi as he slid out of position to make a save. Just a moment after the Blues took the lead they would find themselves becoming a man short as Roman Polak was whistled for cross checking Thornton. On the power play the Sharks seemed to have a hard time getting anything going. About a minute into the power play chance and after retrieving a cleared puck , Thornton would bring it up and would try to pass the rubber biscuit up ice, only to see the puck deflect of the skate of a Blues defenseman. Luckily for the Sharks that deflection came over to Burns who then took the puck between two St Louis defenders and drilled a wrist shot past Elliott to tie the game. The Sharks carried some momentum off of the Burns power play goal from the first period on into the second.

Turning Blue- The Sharks seemed to have things all set for them to start the second period. The period even seemingly had gotten off to a good start as Couture launched a hard wrist shot at Elliott who seemed a bit handcuffed by it but still made the save. Just seconds later the Blues would have the puck and a face off in the Sharks defensive zone. Off of the face off Berglund would send a feed pass to Colaiacovo at the point. From there Colaiacovo would launch a shot towards Niemi. As Niemi moved towards the puck, the Blues McDonald would beat Niemi to it by a fraction of second and knock the vulcanized rubber into the net. The Blues had the lead again just barely a minute into the second period which seemed to draw some of the wind out of team teals sail.

Team teal’s frustrations would only continue to mount as Elliott was as poised as he could be while stopping a total of 10 shots on goal for the period. The Sharks despite the number of shots again had trouble setting up any long sustained pressure in the Blues zone as St Louis was able to close lanes in and around Elliott. Almost half way though the period Douglas Murray was whistled for interference around the goal creating another power play for the Blues. Once again the Blues put on what almost seemed like a clinic on passing the puck during a power play before finding the right play to put on net. This time, it would be the Blues’ Arnott would be the recipient of a cross crease pass from McDonald who hammered the puck into the open side of the net to expand the St Louis lead to two. As bad as the period was for the Sharks, it would only get even worse for them towards the end as Daniel Winnik drew a boarding penalty. Once again, the Blues had another power play with just 21 seconds remaining in the second period. The man advantage would carry over into the final frame.

The Hole Just Got Deeper- Once again with the man advantage, the Blues took their time before finding the right shot. This time Alex Steen would have the honors as his blast from the right point beat a screened out Niemi to give St Louis a 4-1 lead with 19:01 remaining in the game. For much of the period after Steen’s goal the Blues seemingly used the old Muhammad Ali “Rope-A-Dope” philosophy to wear down team teal as the period went on. The Sharks did manage to get some looks on net however were again just not able to sustain an effective offensive attack while valuable time was wasting away. As time went on a Blues victory seemed all but apparent. The Sharks did not quit at any point during this period to their credit, they were just overpowered by what appears to be the better team at this point.

Two Goals, Too Little, Too Late- The Sharks did make one last late bid to stay in the game. With just over three minutes remaining and the Sharks in control of the puck, Couture’s slap shot from the point was turned away by Elliott. However, Elliott could not control the rebound as the puck rolled out towards Colin White. With the puck just bouncing along, While drilled a slap shot that Elliott never saw and beat him to his lower left. Down 4-2 the Sharks had some life but not much in the way of time. With time winding down team teal pulled Niemi and all stops to keep their slim hopes alive. The time wound down to 16.8 seconds remaining when Thornton from behind the Blues goal found Couture in the slot. Couture took Thornton’s feed pass and drilled the puck past Elliot to draw the Sharks to within one. However this would be as close as team teal would come as they just did not have enough time to complete the comeback. Burns final shot on goal from the corner was deflected away by Elliott as the final horn sounded.

Game Analysis- One thing after this game seems for certain. We are now going to see what this edition of the San Jose Sharks is made of. Down 2 games to 1 now, to win the series the Sharks must win three of the next four, with two of those being in St Louis. This will be quite the challenge for team teal who as the last two games have shown are a team indicative of a lower seeding while the Blues seem to be fairly superior. To the credit of both teams, unlike other playoff series going on not too much of the bad blood from Game 2 in St Louis spilled over. The Sharks tonight again had a hard time getting in sinc as the puck dropped shortly after 7pm. This has been one of many trends that have hurt them throughout the season. Team teal throughout much of the series are finding themselves to be at least one step slower than the Blues, and tonight was no exception. What really hurt the Sharks though was their utter inability to stay out of the penalty box. You cannot afford to be taking trips to the penalty box if you can’t afford to be giving up easy goals. In the three Blues power plays where they scored, the Sharks were chasing the puck with just their eyes and not their legs. They were like a cat watching a foil ball swinging back and fourth, however the difference being was that they were not pouncing on it.

The Sharks however do also deserve a ton of credit for not giving up on this game and hopefully those two goals scored in the last three minutes, though not enough tonight, maybe will help to build some momentum going into Game Four on Thursday Night. The Sharks have two days to break some tape on this one, and see what they can do to compensate for whatever deficiencies they have and try to get a handle on them. The Sharks have come back from 2-1 series deficits before. However, keep in mind to that the St Louis Blues are the number two seed in the Western Conference for a reason and they have showed that over the last two games. If the Blues win out here and Vancouver loses to the LA Kings, the Blues will reseed as the top team in the Western Conference and be tough to beat. I mention this because this is how enormous the Sharks task lying ahead of them is. If the Sharks cannot make these adjustments, this is a five game series for the Blues to take…period. Let’s hope the Sharks can rebound here starting Thursday Night at the Shark Tank.

GO SHARKS!!! REGROUP, GET IT RIGHT AND BEAT THE BLUES GAME 4 THURSDAY NIGHT!!!

The King Shark

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