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Sharks advance with 3-1 win
Blues ousted in five games
4/15/04 - by Mike Lee

By the time the sun rises over the Mississippi River on Friday morning, the St Louis Blues might realize what hit them in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was a knockout blow, delivered by the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of their Western Conference match up. The Sharks sent St Louis to the canvas with a 3-1 win at HP Pavilion on Thursday, ending the Blues season and what had been one of the NHL's more intriguing stories. The Blues late run just to qualify for the post season extended their franchise record to 25 consecutive post season appearances, but the energy expended just to accomplish that feat may have taken its toll. Aside from Game 3, the younger and faster Sharks steamrolled the Blues, taking advantage of every exposed weakness.

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1 2 3 T
STL 1 0 0 1
SJ 1 1 1 3
1st period - S.J, B. STUART (1) (V. DAMPHOUSSE, P. MARLEAU), 01:50 STL, B. SAVAGE (1) (D. WEIGHT, S. MELLANBY), 13:10
2nd period - S.J, M. SMITH (1) (M. GOC, T. HARVEY), 09:34
3rd period - S.J, M. RICCI (1) (S. HANNAN), 16:22
1st period - S.J, S. HANNAN, 04:17 - Cross check STL, S. MELLANBY, 07:56 - Tripping
2nd period - STL, M. DANTON, 05:16 - Tripping STL, M. BARON, 05:32 - Hooking S.J, B. STUART, 13:42 - Holding
3rd period - STL, P. CAJANEK, 01:44 - Interference STL, C. PRONGER, 09:22 - Interference S.J, K. MCLAREN, 15:03 - Interference STL, P. DEMITRA, 16:19 - Hi stick
  Shots Saves
STL - Osgood 20 17
SJ - Nabokov 22 21
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
STL 6 8 8 22
SJ 6 7 7 20
Power Play Conversion
STL 0 of 3
SJ 0 of 4
3 Stars of the Game
Scott Hannan
Mark Smih
Brad Stuart
Three new names were added to San Jose's post season goal scoring party, adding evidence that the Sharks can win any number of ways. Brad Stuart, Mark Smith and Mike Ricci all tallied goals for the Sharks, the 7th, 8th and 9th San Jose players to score goal in the first round.

Smith's goal proved to be the game winner, and also one of the biggest goals for the Sharks this season. The seldom used forward was in the lineup on Thursday because of Alyn McCauley's shoulder injury. Smith was in a position to score because of the Sharks forecheck in the Blues zone.

Marcel Goc, the Sharks first round draft pick in 2001, made his NHL debut in the hot seat, but managed to setup Smith's goal by forcing the puck down low after Todd Harvey regained control of it at the top of the right circle. Smith swatted at Goc's pass from just outside the right post and the puck found the back of the net.

The goal broke a 1-1 tie which was forged on Stuart's first of the playoffs and a Brian Savage tally. Both goals came in the opening period. Stuart converted just 1:50 into the game when he poked home a deflection from 15 feet out. Patrick Marleau and Vincent Damphousse had been cycling the puck down low, but Damphousse's shot bounced off Blues goaltender Chris Osgood and kicked over to Stuart on the far post.

Savage took advantage of a defensive lapse in front of the Sharks net midway through the opening period. Curtis Brown and Nils Ekman failed to cover Savage as he raced across the slot, while the Blues worked the puck free from behind the Sharks net. Doug Weight slipped a pass to Savage as the cut across the slot.

St Louis tried to make one last un in the 3rd period, but the Sharks seemed to smother every scoring opportunity. Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov had a lot to say about that in the 3rd period after Mike Sillinger almost knotted things up at two, after taking a beautiful centering pass from Pavel Demitra who was lurking behind the Sharks net.

Eight St Louis shots on goal in the 3rd period could do little else to generate any life.

Ricci capped things off by deflecting a Scott Hannan shot past Osgood for an insurance goal with under four minutes to play. Ricci was hanging around in front of the net when Hannan's blast came ripping through the slot. Osgood starred to the ceiling in disbelief as the puck skittered past him into the net.

The sellout crowd erupted with Ricci's goal, and the cheering could be heard down Santa Clara Street 30 minutes after the game ended.

Play of the Game
Simth's goal will go down in the Sharks annals as one of those bang-bang plays that decided a series. As the Blues tried to setup a counterattack on what appeared to be a Sharks turnover, Smith setup camp near the Blues net before taking Goc's gift and pushing it past Osgood. Smith wildly flailed at the puck with a sweeping stab that appeared to be more out of control than anything. There was nothing out of control with the shot however.

The Turning Point
Opening the game with a goal in the opening two minutes of play had the Blues on their heels from the outset, and it would take its toll on a St Louis roster that was already having issues reconciling how they were going to beat San Jose already down 3-1 in the series. The quick tally also energized the crowd, which didn't need any one reason to make noise, but the goal kicked off the Round 2 party just a little sooner than expected.

Save of the Game
Nabokov's stop on Sillinger's scoring attempt may have simply been natural reaction as the play unfolded, but it kept a one-goal San Jose lead intact and sparked the Sharks who may have needed a wake up call as the 3rd period began.

Box Scores Do No Justice
Things worked out well for the Sharks in the end, but a failed 5-on-3 opportunity went wasted by San Jose and could have been the catalyst that kick started the Blues. The Sharks had almost two full minutes of power play time with the two-man advantage, but they failed to generate any real good chances. Part of that may have been attributed to the fact that San Jose didn't sacrifice anyone in front of the net as they tried creating scoring chances.

Honorable Mention
The injury bug continues to take its toll. In addition to McCauley, Scott Thornton took the day off to rest his injured knee. The absence of both players allowed Smith and Goc to get into the lineup.

"Hopefully, we'll just sit and watch these other teams battle it out and beat each other up. The [hero] thing is working its way around the room right now. That's what you need in the playoffs: different guys scoring on different nights." - Mark Smith

"They played hard, but it's a long flight back to St. Louis. That was our motivation. We didn't want to give them a chance to take that flight with us." - Mike Ricci

"Our team is so happy that Smitty scored. They were mad they didn't pick Smitty up and carry him around the rink once. ... It just seems apropos, the way our team's played all year, that somebody who no one would expect rises to the occasion today." - Sharks head coach Ron Wilson

"It's going to hurt for a long time. It won't set in until we see them in the second round, but it's definitely going to be a frustrating summer. It's a little too early to start looking for positives right now. There's a lot of anger, disappointment, frustration and soul-searching amongst our team right now." - Chris Pronger

Smith goal was his first career playoff goal.

Marcel Goc played in his first NHL game and recorded his first NHL point on Smith's goal

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