Stanley Cup Recap: Blues, Elliott Stop Sharks in Game 1 of Western Conference Finals

St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott recorded 31 saves in his team's 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. (Photo: Brian Elliott (@KidElls1) Twitter Page)

The best-of-seven Western Conference Finals began Sunday evening between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues at St. Louis’ Scottrade Center. The winner of the series will earn a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

San Jose Sharks vs St. Louis Blues

St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott stopped 31 San Jose shots and forward Jori Lehtera’s second period goal stood as the game-winner as the Blues won Game 1 of the series 2-1 and took a 1-0 series lead.

“They’re a heavy, hard team. Strong on the puck. A lot of wall battles,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after his team’s win. “We haven’t had a series like this. It took us two periods just to get close to the emotional level on the compete side to get going. We’ll be a lot better in Game 2.”

“Our special teams were excellent. Our (1 for 2 power play) was excellent and our (3 for 3 penalty kill) was even better. They were both good. They were the reason for the victory.”

St. Louis captain David Backes scored the first goal of the series, while on the power play when he deflected Kevin Shattenkirk’s shot from the point. The shot from the blue line was high and appeared to have been played by a high-stick but video review proved that to be wrong and the goal stood. The Blues had a 1-0 lead at 15:04 of the first period. Jaden Schwartz was credited with the secondary assist.

Backes’ goal came just seconds after Patrik Berglund appeared to have opened the scoring but it was disallowed after video review showed there was goaltender interference which was ruled as incidental contact. The replay clearly showed that Berglund made contact with San Jose goaltender Martin Jones before deflecting the puck into the goal.

Thirty-four seconds after the Backes goal, San Jose’s Tomas Hertl tied the proceedings 1-1. He and Joe Pavelski parked themselves in front of Elliott to act as screens for the Sharks shooter, defenseman Brent Burns, who found a shooting seam and sent a rocket of a shot towards the Blues net. Pavelski put his stick out in the shooting lane and deflected Burns’ shot down toward the ice. The puck then hit Hertl’s foot before going past Blues goaltender Brian Elliott.

In the second period, the Sharks sent 16 shots at Elliot and he stopped each one. At the other end of the ice, his teammates put just five shots on Jones but scored on one.

Jori Lehtera put St. Louis in the lead 2-1 at the 9:15 mark when he intercepted a clearing attempt in the neutral zone, skated into the Sharks zone along the left wing boards and, despite being hindered by Sharks backchecker Chris Tierney, Lehtera fired off a slap shot that snuck between Jones’ left arm and body into the net.

“I just got the puck, then I closed my eyes and shot it,” Lehtera said about his goal.

The teams skated to a scoreless third period.

Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Tuesday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis at 8:00 pm ET (NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Stat of the Night:

Teams that win Game 1 of the Conference Finals own an all-time series record of 67-29 (.698).

Series Notes:

Going into this series, the Sharks and Blues are 2-2 in their previous four head-to-head playoff series.

San Jose captain Joe Pavelski and St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott were teammates at the University of Wisconsin.

Blues captain David Backes has 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists) in the 2016 playoffs (15 games), tying his total from his first 29 career playoff games (5 goals, 8 assists).

With the win, Brian Elliott improved to 4-0 with a 1.29 goals against average and .954 save percentage in five career postseason appearances versus San Jose.

David Backes dished out 11 hits in Game 1, the most by a player in one game in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Monday’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Schedule:

Game 2 – Eastern Conference Finals – Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins (8:00 pm ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) Tampa Bay leads the best-of-seven series 1-0.

Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.

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