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WCF Game 1: Meier and Couture lead to win
Sharks take early series lead with big 6-3 win
5/11/19 - By Mike Lee -

The Western Conference Finals kicked off on Saturday night, and for at least one night, the Sharks looked unbeatable. San Jose powered up offensively, putting 5 goals past rookie netminder Jordan Binnington, before adding an empty net tally to steamroll the St Loius Blues 6-3 at SAP Center. Timo Meier and Logan Couture scored a pair of goals each to propel San Jose, who also received a 28 save performance from Martin Jones to take the 1-0 series lead.

There are a number of reasons the Sharks powered past St Louis, but a constant dose of quality pressure on Binnington early was likely the biggest key to San Jose's success. San Jose scored first, then responded to every Blues goal after that.

Establishing a 3-goal lead in the 2nd period allowed the Sharks to dictate play, rather than have to fight to gain or hold a lead. It was a pleasant position, given all the tight games the Sharks have played in during the playoffs.

St Louis tried to play a physical game from the opening puck drop, laying the body on anyone in a teal sweater. Blues head coach Craig Berube instilled a game plan that focused on trying to knock out defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Protecting the puck did not appear to be in Berube's repetroire early, and the Sharks made them pay.

Couture got things rolling for San Jose 3:31 into the contest. Meier started a rush by knocking Alex Pietrangelo off the puck right in front of the Blues bench, allowing Gus Nyquist to grab the turnover and race up the left win. Nyquist held the puck before whipping a pass to Couture on the right wing for slam duck shot.

St Louis tied the game 6 minutes later, when Jaden Schwartz fired a shot from the left point that deflected off Joel Edmundson. Couture had a scoring chance on the opposite end of the ice, but he was pushed from behind into the end boards. With Couture crumpled behind the Blues net, Vladimir Tarasenko skated the puck up ice before dropping it to Schwartz for the shot that beat Jones.

Jay Bouwmeester took an interference penalty at 9:36, followed by a Colton Parayko slash on Evander Kane 57 seconds later gave the Sharks 63 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time.

The Sharks used that chance to reclaim the lead for goal. Joe Pavelski is making the most of his minutes since returning from the injured list. He took a Brent Burns pass from the point while parked on the left post, then tried jamming the puck past Binnington. The Blues goaltender made the initial save, but Pavelski swatted a floating puck out of the air home for his 2nd goal in his last two games.

San Jose exacted their will on St Louis in the middle frame. Kevin Labanc pushed the Sharks lead to 3-1 at 7:41, when he scooped up an entry attempt by Joe Thornton at the blueline, then skated in on net. Using Marcus Sorensen as a screen, Labanc moved up the left wing before cutting to his right and snapping a shot that tucked between Binnington and the left post. The goal was Labanc's 4th off the playoffs.

The Blues cut into the Sharks lead 77 seconds later when Ryan O'Reilly put a puck past Jones from the right side. David Perron fired a shot from the left wing boards that squirted through the crease. O'Reilly gathered the puck then skated toward the net, slipping around a fallen Jones with a nasty move to his right, before tucking the puck inside the right post.

Meier kicked it into gear with 10:24 to play in the period. Parayko tried skating the puck out of his own zone, carrying it up his right wing. Couture swiped at the puck right before the Blues defenseman reached the blueline. Meier was trailing on the play, grabbed the turnover and circled back toward the Blues net. Meier blew past Bouwmeester on the right side, cut to the left, but dragged the puck around Binnington on the right side of the crease for the highlight reel goal.

Meier tacked on his second goal with 2:26 left in the period, throwing a puck at defenseman Vince Dunn from behind the right end line. The puck hit Dunn in the shin, deflecting past Binnington for the 5-2 lead.

That breathing room allowed the Sharks to focus on running the clock in the 3rd period. Problem is the Blues had other ideas. Tyler Bozak cut the Sharks lead to 5-3 with just under 7 minutes to play, which gave the Blues options. Bozak found himself with the puck and a wide open net after Patrick Maroon fired a shot from the front of the net. Bozak gathered it and lifted a shot home.

Berube elected to pull Binnington with 4:39 to play, which elevated the stress levels of the sellout crowd when the Sharks couldn't get a clear for a solid 90 seconds. Jones denied the Blues, keeping the lead manageable. A Tomas Hertl shot attempt from the Sharks zone sailed wide left drawing one of three icings.

San Jose would finally work the puck up ice, allowing Couture to bury an empty net chance at 17:39 to end any doubt of the game's outcome.

It was an impressive showing in a game the Sharks really wanted.

Game Notes:

* The win marked the third consecutive series where the Sharks gained a series lead by winning the opening game. San Jose dropped Game 2 in both the Vegas and Colorado series, which is a trend the Sharks will want to end on Monday night.

* Erik Karlsson recorded his 50th career playoff point (6 goals, 44 assists).

* Brent Burns is the 7th defenseman in NHL history aged 34 or older to record 15 or more points in a postseason.

* Logan Couture became the 6th active NHL player to record 10 goals or more in multiple post seasons.

* Former Oakland Athletic and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Reggie Jackson opened the locker room door prior to the game.

* Timo Meier, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski and Gus Nyquist combined for 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists).




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Scoring
1 2 3 T
STL 1 1 1 3
SJ 2 3 1 6
1st period - 1, SJ, Couture 10 (Nyquist, Meier), 3:31. 2, STL, Edmundson 1 (Schwartz, Tarasenko), 9:13. 3, SJ, Pavelski 4 (Burns, E. Karlsson), 11:24, (pp).
2nd period - 4, SJ, Labanc 4 (Thornton), 7:41. 5, STL, O'Reilly 3 (Perron, Blais), 9:00. 6, SJ, Meier 4 (Couture), 10:24. 7, SJ, Meier 5 (Vlasic, Nyquist), 17:34.
3rd period - 8, STL, Bozak 3 (Maroon, Dunn), 13:01. 9, SJ, Couture 11 (Pavelski, Kane), 17:39, (en).
Penalties
1st period - Bouwmeester, STL (interference), 9:36; Parayko, STL (slashing), 10:33.
2nd period - Bozak, STL (hooking), 2:57; M. Karlsson, SJ (delay of game), 13:23.
3rd period - Burtuzzo, STL (fighting major), 17:55; Bortuzzo, STL (roughing), 17:55; Bortuzzo, STL (roughing), 17:55; Sundqvist, STL (roughing), 17:55; Bortuzzo, STL (10 min misconduct), 17:55; Goodrow, SJ (roughing), 17:55; DIllon, SJ (roughing), 17:55; Goodrow, SJ (10 min misconduct), 17:55.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
STL - Binnington 24 19
STL - empty net 1 0
SJ - Jones 31 28
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
STL 10 9 12 31
SJ 9 11 5 25
Power Play Conversion
STL 0 of 1
SJ 1 of 4
3 Stars of the Game
Timo Meier
Erik Karlsson
Gus Nyquist
Attendance
SAP Center - 17,562
Officials
Referees: Kozari, Sutherland. Linesmen: Racicot, Knorr.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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