Blues blank Sharks 3-0, even series at 1
Saturday, April 14, 2012
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak combined for a shutout, the San Jose Sharks put themselves in an early hole when Marc-Edouard Vlasic tapped the puck into his own net, and the St. Louis Blues evened the first-round series at a game apiece with a 3-0 victory Saturday night.
Vladimir Sobotka was credited with a goal on the first shot of the game after Vlasic's gaffe. David Backes and Andy McDonald also scored, and T.J. Oshie had two assists in the Blues' first playoff victory since 2004.
Halak's left leg was bent underneath his body early in second period after Blues defenseman Barret Jackman slid into him. Halak finished with 12 saves, and Elliott stopped 17 shots the rest of the way.
The Blues announced midway through the second period that Halak was expected to return, but he never made it back to the bench. Elliott was hindered at the end of the regular season by an undisclosed upper-body injury, but was the backup for Game 1.
Halak and Elliott combined for 15 shutouts in the regular season, tying a modern NHL record, and won the Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed. Elliott was quite the luxury as a backup after setting a modern NHL record with a 1.56 goals-against average and nine of the shutouts.
Antti Niemi made 29 saves for the seventh-seeded Sharks, who were shut out in both regular-season meetings in St. Louis, with Halak and Elliott getting one apiece.
The game turned feisty at the finish, with Blues defenseman Roman Polak and Sharks defenseman Justin Braun tangling after the final horn.
Games 3 and 4 are in San Jose on Monday and Thursday nights.
The Blues set a franchise record with 30 home victories, but had dropped three in a row after losing 3-2 in double overtime in Game 1. They had the lead on the game's first shot, thanks to Vlasic's mistake.
Sobotka's wrist shot from above the left circle handcuffed Niemi, trickling between the goalie's pads, and was sitting in the crease. Vlasic attempted to swat it out on his backhand but instead tapped it into the net for Sobotka's third career playoff goal at 1:31.
The Sharks controlled play most of the rest of the period, and Joe Pavelski hit the goalpost with just under seven minutes to go, but they couldn't get the puck past Halak.
Backes, who didn't take a shot in Game 1, made it 2-0 with a one-timer from Oshie at 13:49 of the second period. McDonald scored in the final minute with the Blues on a two-man advantage.
Elliott's regular-season numbers topped Halak's. But Halak got the nod the first two games likely because of past playoff success combined with Elliott's 1-2 record and 4.14 career goals-against average in the postseason plus the injury.
Elliott didn't face a shot for nearly 7 minutes as the Blues gave him plenty of time to get comfortable in the net, and when Backes made it 2-0 with just over 6 minutes left the Sharks had been outshot 13-6 for the period.
Elliott was tested at the end of the period, stretching for a toe save on Logan Couture's wraparound for perhaps his best save.
Notes: Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter got a huge ovation in the third period, displaying his two World Series rings with the camera panning out to the Blues shirt he was wearing. Among other luminaries at Game 2 were Cardinals teammate David Freese, Blues Hall of Famer Brett Hull and actor Jon Hamm.... The game was delayed a few minutes early in the first period when the Blues' bench broke. A replacement was installed between periods. ... Non-fighters Pavelski and Kris Russell tangled in the second period. Russell had no majors during the regular season and Pavelski had just one.
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