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Blues exploit Sharks special teams
St Louis takes Game 3 with 3 power play goals
4/16/12 - By Mike Lee -

Don't let the score fool you. Game 3 of the Sharks Western Conference Quarter Finals matchup with the St Louis Blues wasn't as close as the 4-3 final might suggest. The Sharks let home ice advantage slip through their hands on Monday night after their penalty kill stopped one of four Blues power plays to drop their second consecutive game to St Louis. The Blues grabbed control of the game with a pair of goals in the 2nd period and a back breaker 59 seconds into the 3rd period to build what turned out to be an insurmountable lead. The Sharks now look to Thursday's 4th game to see if they can salvage a split on home ice before the series shifts back to St Louis this weekend.

To do that, the Sharks may need some divine intervention, given their inability to stop anyone from scoring a power play goal. The league's 29th ranked penalty kill has given up 5 goals in 11 chances to St Louis through three games. The Blue 3 power play tallies deflated the sellout crowd and took them out of the equation by the middle of the game.

"Our penalty kill was not very good," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "The first one gets through. They earned that one. The second one was a missed assignment. The third one is on our tape and we don't clear. We end up playing in our end and it finds the back of the net. Our power play wasn't real sharp and at this time of the year it has to be."

The normally raucous Sharks fan base was left wondering how the league's 19th best power play unit during the regular season could look like world beaters with the man advantage on Monday night. St Louis converted on their first three chances on the power play. When Joe Thornton took a selfish roughing penalty with 2:29 left in regulation, there was little motivation for the Blues to press for a 4th tally on the power play.

"They are a tight defensive team. We have to play better and stay out of the box," Thornton ironically added after the game. "We still have a lot of work to do. We've got to sharpen up here. We don't play till Thursday. It was nice to see the guys not quit - but don't take the unnecessary penalty - that's the bottom line."

Patrik Berglund scored his 3rd goal of the series at 14:31 of the 1st period after Tommy Wingels was sent off for high sticking. Berglund was the beneficiary of a Carlo Colaiacovo deflection off the right post that fluttered out to the front of the net after Antti Niemi overcommitted to the right side of the net and left the goal exposed after trying to make the stop on Colaiacovo's attempt. Hovering in the slot, Berglund simply tapped in the rebound for the 1-0 Blues lead.

It was a lead they would not relinquish.

The Sharks countered 2 minutes later when Brent Burns scored his first career NHL playoff goal. Burns got a jump on T.J. Oshie and Kris Russell as Thornton skated the puck up ice. Thornton lifted a pass into the St Louis zone from center ice, then Burns grabbed the puck near the top 0f the right circle en route to the Blues goal. The Sharks defenseman drew Blues goaltender Brian Elliott to the right post with a move to his forehand, before lifting a backhand shot into the St Louis goal.

Andy McDonald made it 2-1 Blues a minute into the 2nd period, the only even strength goal St Louis scored all night. Logan Couture missed his defensive assignment, leaving McDonald all alone on the left post. Niemi stoped a Berglund shot, but the rebound landed right on McDonald' stick for the easy deposit. It was the 2nd goal that the Blues tapped home without any trace of a goaltender in the vicinity of the goal mouth.

Douglas Murray put the Blues back on the power play midway through the period after incurring an interference penalty. Jason Arnott scored his 32nd career playoff goal by sniping a shot from the left dot after McDonald set him up with a cross-ice pass.

San Jose's power play on the other hand was done for the night. The Sharks had the same number of opportunities as St Louis, but the Blues penalty kill attacked at the blueline, preventing the Sharks from establishing a foothold to attack with.

A Daniel Winnik boarding penalty late in the carried over to the 3rd period, putting the Sharks up against another Blues firing squad. San Jose didn't even get to finish their cigarette, before Alex Steen rifled a shot past Niemi for the back breaker. San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic failed to clear Berglund out of the crease, who served as a sufficient obstruction for Steen's shot.

"It was very frustrating," said Winnik. "It seemed we couldn't really get much going. It comes down to the one -on -one battles. The game was obviously lost on the penalty kill tonight."

The Blues seemed to let their guard down late in the contest, allowing the Sharks to creep back into the game. The defense picked up the underachieving slack of the offense with 3:02 left in regulation, when Colin White whipped a puck on net from the top of the right circle. The shot beat Elliott on the near side, cutting the Blues lead to 4-2.

Thornton made things impossible to mount any form of comeback by taking his roughing penalty less than a minute after White's goal.

When his penalty did expire, he was able to contribute to Logan Couture's 1st goal of the playoffs with 16.8 seconds left in regulation. Couture cut to the net as Thornton made a feed to the slot from behind the Blues net. Elliott never saw the one-timer.

That pulled the Blues to within a single goal, but there was no time left. "We'll look at doing something," added McLellan. "We have some players that we can access. I thought we had better legs tonight than we had in Game Two. It was nice to see that we generated more in the offensive zone than we did in Game Two. The area we've talked about, we've killed it already, the penalty kill has to get better and the power play has to polish up."



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
STL 1 2 1 4
SJ 1 0 2 3
1st period - 1, STL, Berglund 3 (Colaiacovo, Arnott), 14:31m (pp). 2, SJ, Burns 1 (Thornton, Couture), 16:45, (pp).
2nd period - 3, STL, McDonald 2 (Berglund, Colaiacovo), 1:01. 4, STL, Arnott 1 (McDonald, Steen), 10:06, (pp).
3rd period - 5, STL, Steen 1 (McDonald, Colaiacovo), 0:59, (pp). 6, SJ, White 1 (Clowe, Thornton), 16:58. 7, SJ, Couture 1 (Thornton, Havlat), 19:43.
Penalties
1st period - Colaiacovo, STL (interference), 7:24; Wingels, SJ (high sticking), 14:00; Polak, STL (cross checking), 15:40.
2nd period - Murray, SJ (interference), 9:28; Winnik, SJ (boarding), 19:39.
3rd period - Nichol, STL (holding), 2:35; McDonald, STL (slashing), 10:12; Perron, STL (roughing), 15:02; Desjardins, SJ (roughing), 15:02; Thornton, SJ (roughing), 17:31.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
STL - Elliott 29 26
SJ - Niemi 27 23
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
STL 14 9 4 27
SJ 9 10 10 29
Power Play Conversion
STL 3 of 4
SJ 1 of 4
3 Stars of the Game
Andy McDonald
Joe Thornton
Carlo Colaiacovo
Attendence
17,562
Officials
Referees: Devorski, O'Rourke. Linesmen: Morin, Nansen.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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