After going the distance in their two previous playoff series against Chicago and Dallas, the St. Louis Blues may be hitting the wall. Fatigue can contribute to turnovers and in Game 3, St. Louis was credited with 16 giveaways. For the second consecutive night, the Blues looked like a tired team that could not keep up with the faster San Jose Sharks.
St. Louis Blues vs San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl scored two goals. Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski assisted on two goals and goaltender Martin Jones stopped all 22 St. Louis shots to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 3-0 win over the Blues in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. The Sharks lead the series 2-1.
It is the second consecutive shutout for Jones versus the Blues and third in his last four games.
“They (St. Louis) made some changes to their lineup,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said after the game. “They made changes to their structure a little bit, too. They tried to push us back a little bit and create a little bit more space. It took us a little bit of time to adjust. The first five, ten minutes of the game, we were on our heels a little bit but as the game wore on we got more comfortable with how it was going to be played. I thought we got into a real rhythm and took control.”
Sharks captain Joe Pavelski likes how his team has come out of the gate for each game.
“I think we’re playing with confidence,” Pavelski said. “From game to game, we’ve had some good starts and it’s gotta continue. This is good stuff, for sure, this win. Now, we’ve got to recover and get ready to go again (in Game 4).”
Hertl broke the ice with his fourth goal of the postseason. Thornton gained control of the puck at center ice off a St. Louis turnover. Under pressure, he flipped a backhand pass to Pavelski, who carried the puck into the Blues zone on the right side of the ice. Pavelski spotted Hertl on his left and moved the disc to the winger. Hertl unleashed a slap shot that beat St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott high to his glove side and the Sharks had a 1-0 lead at 15:53 of the first period.
San Jose took a 2-0 lead 11:44 into the second period when Joonas Donskoi poked an attempted St. Louis pass out of the Sharks zone up to Logan Couture. Couture carried the puck into the Blues zone along the left wing while doing so, Donskoi joined the rush and received a pass from Couture in the middle of the Blues zone. He ripped a wrist shot between Elliott’s blocker and body and into the net.
Hertl scored his second of the night at 6:09 of the third period to increase San Jose’s lead to 3-0. The Sharks won a defensive zone faceoff and broke out with Pavelski lugging the puck into the Blues zone. He left a drop pass for Thornton just inside the St. Louis blue line. Thornton sent the puck behind the Blues net where a Blues defenseman moved the puck back in Thornton’s direction. The Sharks center put a pass directly onto Hertl’s stick, who was behind the St. Louis net and Hertl skated from behind the goal and put a shot between Elliott’s pads as the netminder was going down into his butterfly.
After the third San Jose goal, St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock replaced Elliott with backup goaltender Jake Allen.
With a little over five minutes to play in the third period, Hitchcock pulled Allen for the extra skater but the Blues could not put the puck behind Jones.
The teams will return to San Jose’s SAP Center for Game 4 on Saturday, May 21st at 7:15 pm ET (NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Stat of the Night:
Logan Couture leads the NHL with 20 points in the 2016 playoffs, three shy of last year’s playoff leaders (Tyler Johnson 13 goals, 10 assists, 23 points; Patrick Kane 11 goals, 12 assists, 23 points).
Martin Jones became the first goaltender to post consecutive shutouts in the Conference Finals since 2010 (Michael Leighton, Philadelphia).
With the win, Martin Jones tied San Jose Sharks records with three shutouts in a single playoff season (Evgeni Nabokov in 2004).
Tomas Hertl recorded his first career multi-goal playoff game, including his first career playoff game-winning goal.
In Game 3, San Jose dished out 41 hits. St. Louis doled out 21 hits.
Game 3 was the 100th career playoff game for San Jose defenseman Paul Martin.
Friday’s Stanley Cup Schedule:
Game 2 – Eastern Conference Finals – Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning (8:00 pm ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). Pittsburgh leads the best-of-seven series 2-1.
Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.