The Western Conference Finals began at the Shark Tank on May 11 between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues. Despite both finishing off lengthy series to advance to the Conference Finals, San Jose put on a 6-3 commanding performance to take game one.
It was their first postseason meeting since 2015-16, with the Sharks winning the series in six games to make the Stanley Cup Finals.
Sharks stars show up early
In the opening few minutes, San Jose got a scare when Joe Thornton left the ice to be evaluated in the medical room. Thornton is one of the many older Sharks’ skaters, still competing at the age of 39. It wasn’t anything severe, with Thornton returning to the bench shortly later.
Just over three minutes in, the Sharks managed to get on the scoreboard first. Logan Couture, the best postseason scorer for the team, added another goal to his total.
With Couture’s success, the target on his back grew even larger. The Blues made it evident they were trying to slow him down best they could, which included Jaden Schwartz boarding Couture with no call made. St. Louis capitalized off the opportunity and Schwartz helped assist Joel Edmundson for his first playoff goal.
It’s been well known the impact Joe Pavelski has had on the team. In addition to being the team Captain, Pavs has been around the team for years, is a fan favorite and has tallied points in critical games during the 2019 playoffs. San Jose was given a power play opportunity midway through the first period with Jay Bouwmeester called for interference, and shortly after, Colton Parayko joined him after slashing.
Now with a five on three advantage, the Sharks had multiple opportunities. They cashed in when Pavs put a shot on goal and followed up with a rebound mid-air, finding the back of the net around Jordan Binnington.
Young Sharks join in
Three minutes into the second period, the Blues had another skater sent to the box. This time it was Tyler Bozak who was called for hooking. An interesting note, the Blues hadn’t committed a penalty since game six against the Dallas Stars, and just through one period against the Sharks, they’d committed three.
While they failed to defend their major disadvantage late in the first period, the Blues were able to successfully kill of the penalty this time. A few minutes later, Kevin Labanc put the Sharks up by two goals.
Just over a minute later, the Blues had their own chance to cut back into their deficit. Ryan O’Reilly netted the goal, only the second given up by Martin Jones.
Unfazed by the Blues surge, San Jose ended off the period with a strong push themselves. A turnover by Parayko just inside the blue line led for a quality chance for the Sharks, which ended up with Timo Meier netting a goal.
Meier scored his second of the period with just over two minutes left, his fifth of the playoffs. The Sharks finished out the second period with a dominant 5-2 lead.
Couture gets another
The Blues got a little bit of life back late in the third period, having been behind most of the game and not holding any consistent momentum. With just under seven minutes left, St. Louis used one of their best lines to net a goal. Robert Thomas got the puck into San Jose’s zone and worked around the net and found Patrick Maroon in front of the crease. Maroon then passed it off to an open Tyler Bozak, netting it before Jones could deflect enough with his right pad.
St. Louis pulled their goalie with just under three minutes left, and had some chances to cut into the deficit more, but Jones stood firm. Couture scored the final goal deep in the Blues zone with an empty net, his second of the night.
Couture now has 45 career postseason goals in his career, second to Alexander Ovechkin with 50 goals.
Shortly after Couture’s empty netter, things got a little uglier as the Blues played more desperate. A couple individual fights broke out and Barclay Goodrow and Robert Bortuzzo were both ejected with just over two minutes left. In total, 30 minutes of penalties were assessed from that one skirmish with all but four minutes assessed to Goodrow and Bortuzzo.
San Jose: Logan Couture/Timo Meier (two goals), Kevin Labanc/Joe Pavelski (one goal), Gustav Nyquist (two assists), Evander Kane/Joe Thornton/Marc-Edouard Vlasic/Erik Karlsson/Brent Burns/Couture/Meier/Pavelski (one assist), Martin Jones (28 saves on 31 attempts)
St. Louis: Tyler Bozak/Joel Edmundson/Ryan O’Reilly (one goal), Sammy Blais/Patrick Maroon/David Perron/Jaden Schwartz/Vladimir Tarasenko/Vince Dunn (one assist), Jordan Binnington (19 saves on 24 attempts)
Game two will be on May 13 at the Shark Tank, with puck drop at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN.