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Blues Bite Back, Even Series 2-2

Colton Parayko and Joe Pavelski chase the puck in game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. (Jeff Roberson/AP photo)

ST. LOUIS, MO – With their backs against the wall once again, the St. Louis Blues bounced back with a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. The win ties the series at two games apiece, and the teams are headed back to California for game five on Sunday.

The Blues have fared well on the road, not only during the regular season but are 6-2 in the playoffs away from home. Sunday’s game is at 2 PM Central.

The Blues played this game without the services of defenseman Vince Dunn. He is ‘day-to-day’ after getting hit in the mouth with a puck in game three. He was at the game tonight, which is a good sign.

Carl Gunnarsson filled the empty spot in his timely return from injury. Craig Berube made no other changes to his lineup.

The ending of game three is no secret. Radio stations played Gloria for 24 hours straight after the series win over Dallas. In the last 48 hours, it’s been non-stop “Hand Jive” being discussed ad nauseam on every media outlet in North America. Rightfully so, the Blues weren’t happy with the botched call, but they had a job to do.

Pat Maroon spoke to the media earlier in the day before game 4 and said, “Probably the biggest game of the year is tonight. We have to set the tone right away. Let ’em know we’re comin’, and we’re pissed off.”

FIRST PERIOD

It was obvious that they were fired up because the Blues came out flying. In the first shift of the game, the puck was sent deep behind the net of San Jose. Alexander Steen checked Brent Burns as he tried to move the puck. Ivan Barbashev found himself in the perfect spot at the left half-wall, and the puck found it’s way onto his tape. He flicked a wrist shot towards the goal and 35 seconds into the game; the Blues had the lead.

There were no assists credited on the play, but they should have given one to Steen for the check or at least Burns for the giveaway.

St. Louis had two power plays in the period. They only managed one shot on goal in the first one, but late in the period Timo Meier was called for hooking Ryan O’Reilly, and the Blues went to work again with the man advantage.

This time it took just 9 seconds to make the Sharks pay. O’Reilly won the faceoff in the Sharks zone. The puck went back to the point where Vladimir Tarasenko found a lane to shoot. Martin Jones stopped his shot, but the rebound fell in front where there was a lot of traffic. Tyler Bozak got a stick on it, and the puck squirted past Jones to give the Blues a 2-0 lead.

The replay shows that Maroon got his stick on the Tarasenko shot, so he and #91 got assists on the Bozak goal.

Shots were 10-9 in favor of St. Louis in the period.

SECOND PERIOD

The Sharks got their first power play at the 14:19 mark of the second period when Sammy Blais hooked Tomas Hertl. Probably the best guy in the league at tipping and redirecting pucks is Joe Pavelski. He camps out in front of the goal and sets up shop, looking to redirect a shot from out front. On this power play, he got his stick on not just one, but two shot attempts. Jordan Binnington stopped both shots on goal and held the puck as the Blues killed off the threat.

Binnington was stellar in net. He set a new franchise record as the first goalie to win ten games in a single postseason. Facing Melker Karlsson all alone in front of the net, Binnington stared him down and calmly gloved this one. It was the second time for a play like this in the series. I believe the other one was against Joe Thornton where the Blues rookie goalie made a similar save.

Tempers flared a bit near midway through the 2nd when Marc Edouard Vlasic took a swipe at Binnington’s glove as he covered the puck. The Blues took exception to it and gathered around Vlasic against the glass. As is usual, Brayden Schenn was there to stick up for his teammates and took a poke at Vlasic.

Schenn and Vlasic would serve incidental 2-minute minors, Schenn for roughing, Vlasic for slashing. The penalties forced 4-on-4 play where San Jose controlled the puck for the entire 2 minutes but couldn’t get one past Binnington.

There were no goals in the second period. San Jose outshot the Blues 11-8.

THIRD PERIOD

The Blues got another powerplay early in the third when Brenden Dillon caught Pat Maroon in the chin with a stick blade. But, for two minutes, St. Louis couldn’t figure out a way to even get the puck into the offensive zone. Drop passes, and failed entries were plentiful as the Blues couldn’t manage to control the puck and establish a powerplay.

On the other hand, San Jose got a man advantage when Alex Pietrangelo interfered with Evander Kane behind the play in the neutral zone at the 6:01 mark.

Hertl skated the puck in around the Blues defense, and the Sharks went to work. Burns put a shot on net that Binnington thought he stopped. The puck trickled between his pads and Hertl was there to knock it across the line. The Blues defense was drawn out away from the goal and allowed Hertl in behind them and all alone to make the play. The two-goal lead was now just one.

The Sharks threw everything they had at the Blues in the last half of the period, including pulling Jones for an extra attacker in the final minutes. They outshot St. Louis 10-4 in the period. Steen and Colton Parayko blocked shots, Binnington saved two shots on net and the Blues held on for the win.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Brenden Dillon had a rough game for the Sharks. He had two penalties, and his pass towards the Sharks bench on a shift change led to the too many men penalty.

Erik Karlsson may have reinjured himself. He was seen skating during stoppages, seemingly testing his strength. His reaction gave the impression that he wasn’t 100%. He finished the game but wasn’t moving well. We will see if he comes back and plays in game 5. If not, he leaves a big hole on the Sharks blue line.

Sammy Blais blocked a shot midway through the third period. The shot appeared to hit his foot, and he did not return. There was no update on his condition after the game. That will be something to watch as well. Blais leads the team in hits since joining the lineup in the playoffs.

San Jose had 73 shot attempts to the Blues 35. The Blues blocked 21 of those shots, and 30 ended up on the net. Binnington stopped all but one for a .967 save percentage. He is now 11-2 in games following a loss.

Powerplay zone entries have to get better. I hate the drop passes. I’d like to see Robert Thomas, Brayden Schenn, or Jaden Schwartz skate in with the puck. Teams are just lining up four guys at the blue line on us and keeping us out. We have to get it into the zone before we can set up shop and go to work.

I thought Vladimir Tarasenko had his best game of this series. He was moving his feet better and created space for himself. He had three hits, one block, two shots on goal, and an assist in this one. We need him to get cranked up.

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One thought on “Blues Bite Back, Even Series 2-2”

  1. This team has so much potential. Finally they are pulling it all together like we knew they could. Now if they’ll just score that short handed goal for me!! Go Blues!! I’m a believer!!๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ

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