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Blues push Sharks to the brink
SJ drops Game 4 with 2-1 dud
4/19/12 - By Mike Lee -

The Sharks did all of their fans a favor on Thursday night. Rather than draw out a long lasting playoff death, they took a step toward the abyss that is playoff elimination by losing to the St Louis Blues for a third consecutive game, dropping a 2-1 decision at HP Pavilion. Now facing a 3-1 deficit in the series, the Sharks get to jump on a plane and try to fend off elimination on Saturday.

As has become as traditional as the playoffs themselves, the Sharks look to avert yet another playoff exit and the accompanying set of questions on what went wrong.

Nothing seemed to go right for the Sharks in the pivotal game. Had the Sharks won, the series would have been tied. If you listen to all the talking heads associated with the team and Bay Area media, you'd think they had won. That didn't happen of course, and it doesn't look as if San Jose has any idea how to defeat the Blues.

Even after a pair of roster changes, line juggling and home ice advantage, the Sharks just didn't get it done. With Michal Handzus and Brad Winchester inserted into the lineup, the Sharks looked for more presence in the Blues zone. Problem is, they just couldn't do anything with the puck once they got there.

"Well, we're short a goal by the end of the night, but I thought it was probably our best 60-minute effort in the series," sad Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "You can't take consolation in having a good game; not in the playoffs. You have to find ways to win - but with the changes, our best effort was probably tonight." McLellan's comments were appropriate if he's talking about an up and coming team that overachieved to get to the playoffs. The Sharks aren't an up and coming team however. They're a team long overdue and under-achieving by some accounts.

San Jose had the first serious chance on net when Logan Couture had a breakaway chance denied by Brian Elliott 5 minutes into the game. The Sharks young forward tried to deek Elliott to the backhand, but Elliott made the pad save in tight.

It was just a taste of the Sharks inability to challenge Elliott.

St Louis opened the scoring for the third consecutive game, when B.J. Crombeen deposited a Patrik Berglund feed past Antti Niemi at 7:12 for his 1st career playoff goal. The Blues cycled the puck for an eternity then lulled the Sharks defense into collapsing around their own net as Crombeen came racing up the slot as Berglund carried the puck behind the Sharks net. Berglund slid a feed out to the front of the net for the one-time chance that beat Niemi via the 5-hole.

Daniel Winnik tried forcing matters by carrying the puck up ice and evading a Blues defender at the bottom of the right circle before lifting a shot on Brian Elliott with three minutes left in the period. Elliott denied the Sharks winger, but it showed some signs of life.

"We had some good looks, it felt good," said Joe Pavelski. "We were pleased with the opportunities just not the outcome. We need to find ways to get that outcome."

David Perron showed off his own puck handling skills after walking the puck across the top of the goal crease, only to be denied by Niemi with a minute left in the period.

"I thought the first period was the best period we've played," said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. "I thought from an intensity standpoint and just overall play, there were a lot of good players from both teams. I thought we took a lot of body blows today and gave some ourselves. It was a very well-played game by both teams."

Former Shark Scott Nichol took a hooking penalty 3:14 into the 2nd period, but the Sharks could do nothing with the man advantage.

Roman Polak put San Jose right back on the power play at 9:21, but Martin Havlat took a slashing penalty a minute into Polak's infraction to hinder the Sharks already snake-bitten offense.

Barret Jackman put the Sharks on the power play for the 4th time of the night at 8:41 of the 3rd period, but Patrick Marleau committed an inexcusable interference infraction halfway through the man advantage situation.

The Blues used their limited power play to essentially end the Sharks season. After the Blues put a shot on goal, Niemi tried to swat the puck out of the air, but it flipped up, hit him in the back, then trickled behind him to sit precariously in the middle of the crease. Andy McDonald was there to punch it home for the 2-0 lead.

As if on cue, the Sharks pulled Niemi and scored a goal late in the game to give those fans that hadn't already bailed a glimmer of hope. Once again that was false hope. Joe Thornton whipped a shot from the slot to score his 1st goal of the playoffs and cut the Blues lead to 2-1.

The goal woke the Blues from their nap and forced them to pay attention to what San Jose was doing for the final 67 seconds. In that span, Dan Boyle handed the puck to McDonald in the Sharks zone while Niemi watched in disbelief from the Sharks bench. McDonald sent a shot just wide of the empty net, but the Sharks couldn't find a way to penetrate the Blues zone as the final horn sounded.

"At the end of the day it is the (win) that is all that counts, said Boyle."

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Scoring
1 2 3 T
STL 1 0 1 2
SJ 0 0 1 1
1st period - 1, STL, Cromben 1 (Berglund, Perron), 7:12.
2nd period - None.
3rd period - 2, STL, McDonald 3 (Berglund, Perron), 12:00, (pp). 3, SJ, Thornton 1 (Couture, Burns), 18:53, (en).
Penalties
1st period - Shattenkirk, STL (holding), 8:30.
2nd period - Nichol, STL (hooking), 3:14; Winnik, SJ (hooking), 5:24; Polak, STL (Delay of game - puck over glass), 9:21; Havlat, SJ (slashing), 10:45.
3rd period - Jackman, STL (cross checking), 8:41; Marleau SJ (interference), 10:10.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
STL - Elliott 25 24
SJ - Niemi 24 22
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
STL 8 9 7 24
SJ 7 9 9 25
Power Play Conversion
STL 1 of 3
SJ 0 of 4
3 Stars of the Game
Andy McDonald
Brian Elliott
Patrik Berglund
Attendence
17,562
Officials
Referees: Meier, Rooney. Linesmen: Wheler, Sharrers.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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