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Inexperience shows
St Louis jumps on mistakes to take 5-3 win at SAP
11/4/2021 - By Mike Lee
Some things are givens with the San Jose Sharks. They never play well in matinee starts or against goaltenders making their NHL debuts. Joel Hofer got the call in net for the visiting St Louis Blues, who lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the shootout 24 hours earlier. Hofer would get past a shaky opening period to help the Blues knock off San Jose 5-3 at SAP Center.

Why the Sharks can't ever seem to beat rookie netminders is one of the great mysteries of the sport. Death, taxes, and the inability to beat a rookie netminder all go hand in hand. They're all unavoidable.

Things started well, but their own inexperience would inevitably cost them. San Jose still has seven regular starters in the NHL's COVID protocol, which means they're still dependent on farm hands to fill out the roster.

San Jose took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play opportunity 7:13 into the game. Brent Burns unloaded from the high slot between the circles. Nick Bonino distracted goaltender Hofer, who making his first NHL start, by crossing in front of the netminder as Burns shot whistled toward the Blues net.

The Blues made things tougher on themselves when Ivan Barbashev took a high sticking double minor, but his teammates bailed him out with a short-handed goal at the midway point of the game. Brandon Saad finished off a break with Tyler Bozak after the Sharks turned the puck over in the offensive zone. Tomas Hertl was guilty of watching the puck rather than skating back to defend Saad who tapped home a saucer pass from Bozak on the left side.

Hertl had a nightmarish game, as he was on the ice for 4 of the 5 Blues goals.

Logan Couture returned the short-handed favor when he bagged his own goal while the Sharks were killing a Mario Ferraro holding penalty. The Sharks captain picked defenseman Justin Faulk's pocket near the Sharks blueline, then raced up the left side before snapping a shot past Hofer for the 2-1 lead.

The Sharks can look to the 2nd period as the turning point in this game. They would allow the Blues to tie things up 4:20 into the frame when Pavel Buchnevich potted his 2nd goal of the season. Hertl and Ryan Merkley got crossed up, allowing the Blues to retain possession in the Sharks zone, eventually shuffling it to the right side where Buchnevich put a one-timer past Adin Hill.

Nick Merkley scored his first goal as a Shark to help San Jose reclaim the lead 20 seconds later. Ferraro threw the puck on net from the left point, but Merkley got a stick blade on the puck as he fought for position in the slot. The puck bounced past Hofer for the 3-2 Sharks lead.

The mistakes would catch up to San Jose at that point.

Saad tied things up once again at 8:20 after the Sharks botched possession of the puck in the Blues zone. Saad gathered a lead pass as he skated up the right wing, and threw it at the Sharks net. Hill didn't do himself or his team any favors by allowing the puck to slip past him and tuck inside the left post.

The inexperience in the home jerseys would help the Blues claim the lead 11:42 into the middle frame. Jasper Weatherby, Nicolas Meloche and Artemi Kniazev stumbled to defend behind their own net, which allowed the Blues to move the puck to the point and James Neal to setup out in front. A Jake Walman shot deflected bounced off Hill, landing on Neal's stick. Hill was positioned too far to the left side, allowing Neal to sweep the puck around him on the right side.

Both teams traded penalties in the 3rd period, setting up power play chances for each squad. San Jose just missed tying the game up when a crossing pass eluded Jonathan Dahlen on the right post, which would have ended up in the Blues net if the rookie forward would have been able to get a stick on the pass.

The Blues ended the suspense with a minute remaining in the game when Robert Thomas scored an empty net game. Hofer was credited with the secondary assist, to earn a point in his first NHL game.

Game Notes:

* The Blues lost Brayden Schenn to an upper body injury in the 2nd period. That forced Blues head coach Craig Berube to shuffle his lines in the final frame.

* Sharks captain Logan Couture briefly left the contest in the 3rd period after taking a hit along the boards that resulted in his head bouncing off the glass. Couture returned after a brief trip to the locker room.

* Nick Merkley scored his first goal as a Shark. The forward had 3 career NHL goals entering play on Thursday night. He scored his first goal as a New Jersey Devil in 2020.

* Tomas Hertl followed up his 3 point game on Tuesday versus Buffalo with a -4 night on Thursday.

* Goaltender Adin Hill was critical of his play on Thursday, which wasn't unwarranted. The goaltender could have stopped Saad's first goal and Buchnevich's lone tally. He was out of position on James Neal's tally.


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1 2 3 T
STL 1 3 1 5
SJ 2 1 0 3
1st period - 1, SJ, Burns 1 (Hertl, Barabanov), 7:13, (pp). 2, STL, Saad 2 (Bozak), 10:00, (sh). 3, SJ, Couture 4 (Balcers), 17:16, (sh).
2nd period - 4, STL, Buchnevich 2 (Barbashev, Kostin), 4:20. 5, SJ, N. Merkley 1 (Ferraro, Burns), 4:49. 6, STL, Saad 3 (Thomas, Perron), 8:09. 7, STL, Neal 2 (Walman, Bozak), 11:42.
3rd period - 8, STL Thomas 1 (Parayko, Hofer), 19:00, (en).
1st period - Pederson, SJ (interference), 4:50; Buchnevich, STL (boarding), 5:46; Tarasenko, STL (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:46; Barbashev, STL (high sticking - double minor), 6:37; Ferraro, SJ (holding), 15:49.
2nd period - Weatherby, SJ (cross checking), 5:09.
3rd period - Megna, SJ (slashing), 7:08; Kostin, STL (holding), 14:52.
Shots Saves
STL - Hofer 26 23
SJ - Hill 27 23
SJ - empty net 1 0
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
STL 7 12 9 28
SJ 12 8 6 26
Power Play Conversion
STL 0 of 4
SJ 1 of 5
3 Stars of the Game
Brandon Saad
Tyler Bozak
Brent Burns
SAP Center - 11,816
Referees: South, McIsaac. Linesmen: Fournier, MacPherson.

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