Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sharks blast undisciplined Blues 4-0, even series 1-1

Burns scores two power play goals, Jones pitches 26-save shutout

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues talked about being a better team than they were in Game 1 against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

Despite the 2-1 victory, the Blues felt they needed to be better in order to get the positive results in this series.

It turned out to be all talk and no play for the Blues, who took bad penalties that the potent Sharks power play took advantage of with two Brent Burns goals, and Martin Jones had a relatively light game with a 26-save shutout in San Jose's 4-0 win in Game 2 on Tuesday at Scottrade Center evening the best-of-7 series 1-1.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Brian Elliott dives at a puck at the skates of teammate Jay
Bouwmeester during Game 2 against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

The series shifts to San Jose for Games 3 and 4, beginning with Game 3 Thursday at 8 p.m.

It was a game marked by a strong Sharks game that fed off the forecheck, clogged up all three zones, producing on an effective penalty kill while the Blues had no answer with a forecheck, poor  turnovers and 0-for-6 on the power play, including four minutes 32 seconds into the third period of a 2-0 game and another 24 seconds of 5-on-3.

It was more of the same carried over from Game 1, arguably even worse in Game 2.

"When you want to play a different way than the game's going to allow you to play, then you can go two ways," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "You can either dig in and go the right way or you can become frustrated at times and try freelancing or in our case, take penalties. And we went the other way. We got frustrated, we took penalties and then regrouped ourselves in the third period, but we're down 2-0, the other team's able to sit on it a little bit. 

"If we scored the goals we had the chances for in the third ... our game started to come around, but you can't have the second periods or sometimes starts to games that we've had in the last two games and expect to beat good teams. This is the third round and this is two really good teams going at it and as I said to the players, San Jose has a lot of momentum from the way they finished in Games 5, 6 and 7 (in the second round), and they've got their 'A' game going right now and it's our job to catch up. We have played two 'B' games and I think at times quite frankly, we're fortunate it's 1-1, and we'll take 1-1 right now with the way we've played. We have another level that we can play at, we've seen it, but it hasn't come out at home as much as it has in other buildings for whatever reason."

The Blues are 4-5 on home ice in the playoffs, as opposed to 5-2 on the road. It's the first time in franchise history the Blues have lost five home playoff games in one season.

"I think we didn't play very well and we've seen this at home for a while," Hitchcock said. "I'm not sure why, I'm not sure the players even know why. We seem to want to play a little different at home than we do on the road. We got away with it in Game 1 and didn't get away with it today, at all. They were much better than us probably in every aspect, especially on special teams and we tried to play the same way we did in Game 1 and didn't get away with it."

The Blues didn't get away with anything, plain and simple.

Burns scored two power-play goals, Dainius Zubrus had a goal and an assist, and Tommy Wingels scored for the Sharks.

"We had a lot of confidence because we played well in Game 1," said Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. "We lost Game 1 (2-1) and we wanted to go home with a split and that's what we got."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Burns registered his second multi-goal game of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs to become the 11th different defenseman in NHL history to record two such performances in one postseason and the first since Rob Blake in 2002 with the Colorado Avalanche. Denis Potvin is the only defenseman that has collected three multi-goal games in a playoff year; he did it in 1981 with the New York Islanders.

Sharks center Logan Couture had two assists to give him 19 points in the 2016 playoffs, breaking the San Jose record of 18 set by Igor Larionov in 1994.

"It was good to get a couple on the power play," Couture said. "I think that was big for us."

The Blues were shut out in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since losing to the Sharks 1-0 in the first round of Game 2 on April 14, 2001.

"They played well. We didn't," Blues captain David Backes said. "We've got to park this one like we've parked every other one in the playoffs and come into San Jose and win a road game. That's our focus now. We've done a good job of turning the page in the past and we'll do the same thing here. 

"We need to get our focus back to play our game. When we do that, we love the result. When we don't get to that and we don't have the commitment like we didn't tonight, the chips are all up in the air. Tonight they made us pay and deserved to win." 

The Sharks took a 1-0 lead on a goal by their fourth line. Wingels was able to convert a Zubrus pass from the slot, a wrist shot Blues goalie Brian Elliott got a piece of but caromed into the net at 2:07.

"Our line, we got in on the offensive zone in the first period and second period we had a chance," said Zubrus, who had his first points of the playoffs Tuesday.

The goal came moments after Jones was able to stop Vladimir Tarasenko, whose wife delivered the couple's first child Tuesday morning, in the slot after he skated past Sharks defenseman Paul Martin 1:41 into the game. 

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead at 7:04 of the second period when Joe Pavelski fed Burns from the slot to the left circle for the one-timer. After Blues right wing Troy Brouwer took a slashing penalty on Burns behind the play, Burns scored short side while Blues forward Alexander Steen was playing with a broken stick.

"We made two mistakes. There was no communication on the exit to get the stick, and then we pressured on the half wall on the point, outside the dots instead of buying time to allow us," Hitchcock said. "We were in a 5-on-3 situation, we should have stayed passive. We went aggressive on it and should have stayed."

Said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk: "It’s something that we do on the penalty kill. If we feel like that forward can get to the bench and get a stick and get back in, then it’s the right play. He actually, with no stick, made a great play trying to push Burns out of the zone, grab a stick and recover. They were able to just get to that loose puck and poke it and then they had the advantage. It is a tough play. Just something that they took advantage of."

St. Louis had a chance with about one minute remaining in the second period to get momentum heading into the third, but Brouwer's shot hit the far post from the right circle. 

The Blues were given a four-minute power play 32 seconds into the third period when Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau high-sticked Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. The Blues got late scoring chances from Brouwer and Jaden Schwartz that Jones kicked out.

"Obviously we have to be better at retrievals," Steen said. "We were getting pucks in the zone and they're getting more guys to areas. They're anticipating where we're putting the pucks, out-manning us with the puck and getting pucks out of their zone."   

Burns' second power-play goal came after another Brouwer penalty, this time for slashing in the offensive zone. Burns' slap shot from the left circle high glove side at 11:58 of the third gave the Sharks a 3-0 lead. 

Zubrus scored his first goal of the playoffs into an empty net with 18.4 seconds remaining.

"I think we just played that game for longer periods," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "I was happy with the second and parts of the third in Game 1.  I thought we brought our good game to the rink tonight for longer periods. Getting the first goal was big. I knew our power play would bounce back. It always has all year.  But, you know, I liked our 5-on-5 game. We got contributions from everyone.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon (4) gives chase to Blues rookie Robby
Fabbri during Game 2 on Tuesday. The Sharks won 4-0.

"I had a lot of questions in the last day about how much deeper St. Louis is than our forward group. I think our forward group answered that question tonight." 

The Blues had no answer, and they better find one fast.

"I thought we let frustration creep in at certain times in the game," Steen said. "That can't happen at this time of the year.

"It's tight. We know it, special teams is huge in the playoffs. Obviously last game ours was better and tonight theirs was better. Tonight they played tight. They got the lead and played tighter on us tonight."

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