For the first time in franchise history, San Jose holds an advantage in the Western Conference Final after downing St. Louis in Game 3.
The San Jose Sharks returned home to the SAP Center for Game 3 of this Western Conference Final series and treated the home fans to the same display they put on in St. Louis. The Sharks frustrated this Blues squad for the second consecutive game as San Jose emerged with a 3-0 victory to take a 2-1 series lead.
Martin Jones was solid again, making 22 saves as he became the first goalie in franchise history to post back-to-back shutouts in the postseason as he’s kept the Blues off the scoreboard for the last 150:45 of game action.
Ken Hitchcock shuffled his lineup in this one, and the moves paid early dividends as St. Louis was the aggressor during the first half of the opening frame. Jones was forced to make some early saves as the Blues were able to establish their forechecking game.
However, as the period wore on, the Sharks began to find their legs and their speed once again created problems for the visitors. San Jose had multiple close looks where they either fired high of Brian Elliott or just couldn’t quite corral a pass in front.
Then, team teal would find the breakthrough when Brent Burns forced a turnover by Colton Parayko which San Jose’s top line transitioned into a quality scoring chance. Joe Thornton took the puck fed Joe Pavelski who then hit a wide open Tomas Hertl who blasted one past Elliott to give the home team the 1-0 advantage with a little more than four minutes to go.
It was a great play by Burns to step up in the neutral zone and a gorgeous feed from Pavelski to make Parayko pay as he over-committed to the Sharks captain after making the original mistake.
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Despite being outshot 9-7 in the first 20 minutes, San Jose carried over their momentum from the second half of the period into the middle frame where team teal has dominated the Blues thus far.
The theme continued in this game as the Sharks carried the play once again in the second period, creating numerous odd-man rushes and not allowing St. Louis to sustain any sort of offensive zone time.
San Jose would double their lead off one of those odd-man rushes, again cashing in on a Blues turnover. This time it was Robby Fabbri who tried a cross-ice feed in the attacking zone that Joonas Donskoi deflected away right to Logan Couture which turned into a 3-on-2 rush the other way.
Couture waited patiently for Donskoi to arrive and he wristed one past Elliott for the fourth goal of the playoffs and a 2-0 lead at the 11:44 mark of the period.
It was a big goal for team teal as they wanted to cash in on their hard work to ensure one shot from the Blues wouldn’t tie things back up.
While the shots might have been even at six, San Jose had the more dangerous chances and controlled the puck for long stretches of time in the St. Louis zone.
The Blues came with a push to start the third period, outshooting the Sharks 4-0 early on, but couldn’t find a way past Jones.
San Jose would then find the dagger behind who else but the top line as they continued to torment the visitors.
Following a faceoff win in their own zone, Pavelski took the puck into the offense zone and slid the puck to Thornton who fired a picture-perfect pass on to the tape of Hertl who took the puck from behind the net and snuck one through the five-hole of Elliott for his second of the night.
The play was all set up by Thornton who didn’t appear to show any ill-affects from the slash he took from Jay Bouwmeester in Game 2. The goal would chase Elliott from the game as Jake Allen came on in relief after he made just 11 saves on the night.
From there, San Jose held down the fort as St. Louis has not found the back of the net in the last seven-and-a-half periods in this series.
It was another perfectly executed game from the Sharks who are halfway home to reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
San Jose will look to take another step closer on Saturday night where they can put St. Louis on the brink of elimination and earn their seventh consecutive victory on home ice in Game 4.