Blues Captain Alex Pietrangelo (27) fights off the pressure of Sharks defenseman Barclay Goordrow (23). (Photo courtesy: Anda Chu, Bay Area News Group)
SAN JOSE, CA – It wasn’t the prettiest, but the Blues managed to escape the Shark Cage with a win.
The St. Louis Blues (0-1) and San Jose Sharks (1-0) opened game 2 Monday evening in the Shark Tank. St. Louis took the 4-2 win with the help of defenseman Robert Bortuzzo’s first career playoff goal. Logan Couture scored both goals for San Jose just two minutes apart, but the bottom lines and defensive play of the Blues held off the charge.
The Blues are back in Enterprise on Wednesday at 7 pm, looking to take the series lead.
The Blues began the game with far better defensive work and forechecking early, in both their zone and San Jose’s. This helped convert into another early-game goal for St. Louis when Tarasenko and Edmundson’s second efforts lead to Jaden Schwartz finding a perfect carom and scoring.
Schwartz’s 9th of the playoffs was assisted by the aforementioned Joel Edmundson and Vladimir Tarasenko to put the Blues up 1-0, just 2:34 into the game. The Sharks and Blues traded chances and penalties back and forth, but neither could find the back of the net for the remainder of the period.
The Blues had two powerplay chances to the Sharks’ one, but the defensive effort of both sides proved as sharp and frustrating as they had been all postseason. San Jose headed to their locker room outshooting St. Louis 9-6 but trailed by one goal.
St. Louis attempted to get energy in the second period but the defense of the Sharks was even more impressive early in the middle frame. However, Vince Dunn grabbed his second goal of the playoffs after a St. Louis faceoff win.
Dunn’s goal, assisted by O’reilly and Perron, doubled the lead over San Jose, 2-0. The Blues got a powerplay shortly after, but again it proved to be abysmal. Worse than that, Captain Alex Pietrangelo turned the puck over at the blue line which turned into a breakaway for Logan Couture, and the postseason goal leader didn’t disappoint.
An unassisted shorthanded goal cut the lead 2-1, but Logan Couture wasn’t finished there. Another missed assignment and a goal that Jordan Binnington would like back gave Couture his second goal in two minutes.
Couture’s 12th and 13th goals of the postseason had Timo Meier as the lone assistant, and the Sharks tied the game in a flash. The home crowd was back into the game, but the bottom lines for St. Louis proved their effectiveness in being game changers and landing some quality chances.
That grinding, defensive effort paid off towards the end of the second, as Robert Bortuzzo shifted from high to low and roofed a backhander past Martin Jones.
Bortuzzo netted his first career playoff goal with the help of his new partner Joel Edmundson and Tyler Bozak to silence the Shark Tank and take the lead back, 3-2. A late delay of game penalty would grant the St. Louis Blues just over 90 seconds of powerplay time to open the final stanza. The shot total was dead even after forty, 15 all.
The Blues started the third period still unable to convert on their fourth powerplay chance, but the defensive play in their own zone prevented San Jose from any chances. St. Louis’ defensive play contributed to some great chances on their side as well, but the poised goaltending of Martin Jones warded off any threats from beating him.
The teams traded penalties again, but both sides managed to fend off the man advantage. With the final minutes of the game ticking down, the fourth line for St. Louis paid off once more, after Oskar Sundqvist scored his first goal since game 2 of round 1.
The Sharks pulled Jones after Sundqvist’s goal, assisted by the Alex’s, doubled the Blues lead with three minutes left. Despite a last-ditch push, the Blues’ defense came through and propelled them to a 4-2 win, evening the series one game apiece. The Blues scored 4 goals on 25 shots, while Jordan Binnington saved 24 of 26.
The quiet confidence of the Blues contributed to their sixth win on the road, thanks in large part to their defensive play. “I think we had more poise with the puck coming out of our end,” Robert Bortuzzo told St. Louis reporters. “That gave us a chance to put the puck where we wanted to in the offensive zone.”
Blues forward Jaden Schwartz and interim coach Craig Berube also addressed the silent power play. “I think we need to shoot the puck more earlier, just to get their box moving around,” Schwartz commented to STL-Today. “When the power play’s struggling, it’s easy to just say ‘get pucks and bodies to the net’; I think we need to do a better job [altogether].”
“[While] we have to do a better job of making plays and making the right decisions with the puck, the key was we didn’t let them frustrate us,” coach Berube commented. “We kept playing and ended up with a win, so that’s what I’m concerned with right now.”
The Blues are headed back to Enterprise Center for game 3 on Wednesday, looking to take the series lead. The puck drops at 7 pm in St. Louis and will be broadcasted by:
STL – NBCSN, KSDK 98.1, NBC Sports App, NHL.tv
SJS – NBCSN, KHTK 1140, NBC Sports App, NHL.tv
AROUND THE PLAYOFFS
BOS@CAR – The Boston Bruins could put Carolina in a stranglehold on Tuesday in Carolina, leading the series 2-0. However, the Hurricanes have been a perfect 5-0 at home through these playoffs.
MLB – The Cardinals are in desperate need of a rebound after going 2-8 in their last ten, losing to Pittsburgh 10-6 and falling to 4th in the NL Central.
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