The San Jose Sharks put on a show by scoring flashy goals in a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Saturday night.
I thought Timo was great tonight … he was a bull. When he skates, and his strength, he’s tough to defend.
With the promising Game 1 win, the Sharks opened the series the same way they did against Vegas and Colorado. Both series ended up going to a full seven games. Head coach Pete DeBoer said:
“Hopefully as you work your way through the playoffs, you learn from your mistakes. They’re going to be better and they’re going to be desperate … We’ve got a handle that situation better than we have in the first two rounds.”
The Sharks got the edge early when Couture scored his team-leading 10th goal of the playoffs. Meier knocked down Alex Pietrangelo just outside the Blues zone to turn over the puck for Gustav Nyquist, who carried the puck in. Couture one-timed Nyquist’s pass to score the opening goal just 3:31 into the game.
However, two consecutive penalties against the Blues just a minute later gave the Sharks 5-on-3 power play for a full minute. Brent Burns’ shot deflected to Joe Pavelski, who was playing in his second game after returning from injury. While Jordan Binnington stopped Pavelski’s initial shot, the team captain batted mid-air rebound twice to retake the lead at 2-1. Pavelski said:
“Gave the first swipe at it, just nicked it. It was just still hovering. The second swipe nicked it again, but the second had just enough to cross … You get that 5-on-3 early in a game, you want to answer.”
Five minutes into the second period, Jones got across to make a big save on a one-timer by Schwartz.
With 12:20 left in the second period, a turnover in the neutral zone allowed Joe Thornton to pass the puck up to Labanc. Taking the available open ice, Labanc waited before firing a shot through three players and past Binnington for a 3-1 lead. Labanc said:
“The puck just popped right out to me, [Marcus Sorenson] did a good job of driving the net and he gave me that room to cut to the middle and get the shot off.”
However, the Blues responded a minute later. Ryan O’Reilly picked up a rebound in front of the net and slid it behind Jones to bring the Sharks lead down to just one goal. O’Reilly’s goal was just another dazzling high-skill play among many in Game 1. Kevin Labanc said:
““Its crazy. You don’t really expect that, but if you get time and space, you’re going to make good plays.”
The show continued with 9:36 left in the second period. Couture poked the puck away from Parayko, allowing Meier to speed his way around the other Blues defenseman while heading to the St. Louis net. Meier said:
“That’s an unbelievable stick there, to get the puck away from the defenseman. That goal wouldn’t happen if that play wasn’t made by Logan.
Meier moved the puck to his backhand and one-handed it past the sliding Binnington for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
In the final 2:30 of the second period, Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s shot deflected wide of the net. The puck bounced to Meier, who backhanded it off Blues defenseman Vince Dunn and into the net. Thanks to Meier’s second goal of the night, the Sharks lead 5-2. Meier said:
“I just tried to play with the luck a little bit there … I was mostly hoping to hit the goalie, but it hit the [defenseman’s] skate then went in. It’s nice to get a goal like that.”
The Sharks welcomed the three-goal lead heading into the third period, but St. Louis came out firing in the final 20 minutes. Couture said:
“They still come out hard and they made a push in the third. I thought we sat back a little too much and let them dictate a little too much of the play.
With 6:59 left in the third period, a flurry of chances by St. Louis’ third line lead to Tyler Bozak cutting the San Jose lead to 5-3.
The Blues continued to put the pressure on, pulling Binnington for an extra skater with 4:39 left in the third period. However, the Blues could not get one past Jones, who made 28 saves throughout the night.
With 2:21 remaining, the Sharks won a defensive zone faceoff and sent the puck around the boards, springing Couture to score on the empty net. Couture’s second of the night was the finishing touch on San Jose’s 6-3 win.
The Sharks will look to take their first 2-0 lead of the 2019 Playoffs in Game 2 on Monday at 6 p.m. at SAP Center.