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Sharks bow out of playoffs
Inability to hold a lead bites SJ one last time
4/21/12 - By Mike Lee -
The 2011-12 NHL season officially came to an end in San Jose on Saturday night. In what has become the season of underachievement, the Sharks blew yet another 3rd period lead, falling to the St Louis Blues 3-1 at Scottrade Center in Missouri. The Blues win the Western Conference Quarter Final round, 4 games to 1 in what can only be described as a lop-sided matchup. As if scripted, the Sharks gave up two goals in a 45 second span late in the game to serve up the series on a silver platter to the up and coming Blues.

St Louis didn't just get big goals when they needed them most, but they muzzled the Sharks offense. Big money players like Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski didn't even record an assist in the 5-game snooze-fest. The offensively challenged Sharks only had two players record two goals in the series, and one of them was their primary setup man.

The Sharks came out of the gate intent on grabbing the first goal of the game, but after 5 minutes of pushing, they fell back into a prevent mode that denied any opportunity to generate much in the form of legitimate scoring chances. The team that scored the first goal had won each of the first four contests in the series. Saturday night would be the first exception.

Martin Havlat took a hooking penalty 12:37 into the opening period but his teammates bailed him out by killing the first minor of the game.

The opening period ended scoreless, with the Sharks generating a paltry 3 shots on goal in the frame. They didn't send any rubber Brian Elliott's direction over the last 13 plus minutes of the period.

San Jose tried to kick-start things to open the middle period, but once again, they seemed to run out of steam after about 5 minutes of pressure. Chris Stewart took a hack at Antti Niemi after a whistle, spawning a response from Tommy Wingels who dropped the gloves with the Blues forward.

Havlat was sent back to the box for a suspect holding the stick penalty a minute later to give the Blues their 2nd power play of the evening. The Sharks were able to squelch the St Louis man-advantage by working for possession of the puck and moving it out of their own zone, something they weren't doing very well in their three losses.

B.J. Crombeen was sent off for interfering with Niemi at 10:17, but San Jose's power play unit failed to challenge Elliott with anything serious.

San Jose put a flurry of shots on Elliott from in tight with 4:30 left in the period, but the Blues netminder denied everything. The Sharks had to be scratching their heads at that point in the game, because by the time they finally figured how to get a puck in close, the shots were denied.

Wingles had a point blank chance gloved with 3 minutes to before the 2nd intermission, but the Sharks were finally starting to apply some pressure on Elliott.

That pressure finally paid off with 39 seconds left in the period, when Joe Thornton snapped a shot from the bottom of the left circle past Elliott for the game's 1st goal. Thornton took a Daniel Winnik feed as he cut through the slot from right to left after Torrey Mitchell knuckled a shot from the slot. The puck hit Thornton's tape before Elliott could get over to cover the left post.

St Louis made things dicey for the Sharks 9 minutes into the 3rd period after Torrey Mitchell coughed up the puck deep in his own zone. Stewart found himself with the puck in the slot, but his 10-foot shot was gloved by Niemi. The Blues caught the cross bar with a Kris Russell blast from the high slot a minute later after the Sharks were late to get a flying line chance on the ice.

The Sharks nightmare scenario came to fruition with St Louis scoring a pair of goals 45 seconds apart with under 10 minutes left in regulation to grab the lead.

Jamie Lagenbrunner scored with 8:44 left in regulation after Scott Nichol fired a shot from the right wing boards that Niemi failed to glove. Sharks defenseman floated through the slot and failed to pick up Lagenbrunner who stabbed at it with his stick to deflect it top shelf to tie the game.

St Louis grabbed the lead 45 seconds later when David Perron was credited with redirecting an Alex Pietrangelo shot from the high slot past Niemi. The puck changed direction on Niemi who had Patrik Berglund parked on the doorstep.

San Jose was given a prime opportunity to knot the game back up after Andy McDonald flipped a puck over the glass with 4:30 to play. The only thing consistent about the Sharks game this post season was the poor special teams, which didn't disappoint the sellout crowd. San Jose generated nothing in terms of any serious chances with the man-advantage, and the notion of any heroics evaporated along with the Sharks season.

McDonald sealed the deal when he blindly swatted at a loose puck in the neutral zone after the sharks were forced to pull Niemi. The puck floated down the ice and bounced off the wrong side of the right post, tucking itself in the back of the net. Only then did the Blues start to celebrate their series victory.

The Blues did a good job of putting up the front of an inexperienced team just trying to overcome the odds. They were the better team all season and seemed to tease the Sharks throughout the series.

As has become a Sharks custom, they ended their season with a handshake and the question of what it's going to take to get the team over the hump. This year's changes seemingly moved the team backwards instead of closer to a Stanley Cup.



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
SJ 0 1 0 1
STL 0 0 3 3
1st period - None.
2nd period - 1, SJ, Thornton 2 (Winnik, Mitchell), 19:21.
3rd period - 2, STL, Langenbrunner 1 (Nichol, Sobotka), 11:16. 3, STL, Perron 1 (Pietrangelo, Oshie), 12:01. 4, STL, McDonald 4 (Berglund), 19:21, (en).
Penalties
1st period - Havlat, SJ (hooking), 12:37.
2nd period - Wingels, SJ (fighting major), 6:35; Stewart, STL (fighting major), 6:35; Havlat, SJ (holding the stick), 7:34; Crombeen, STL (goaltender interference), 10:17.
3rd period - McDonald, STL (delay of game - puck over glass), 15:30.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
SJ - Niemi 26 24
SJ - empty net 1 0
STL - Elliott 27 26
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 3 13 11 27
STL 7 8 12 27
Power Play Conversion
SJ 0 of 2
STL 0 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Brian Elliott
David Perron
Jamie Lagenbrunner
Attendence
19,490
Officials
Referees: Kowal, O'Halloran. Linesmen: Miller, Brisebois.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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