St. Louis Blues vs San Jose Sharks
Logan Couture scored three points (1 goal, 2 assists) while teammate Joel Ward scored two goals, and Patrick Marleau assisted on two goals to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. With the win, San Jose eliminated St. Louis from the Stanley Cup Playoffs (4 games to 2) and will make their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in the franchise’s 25-year history.
“Hats off to St. Louis and the fight that they put up and how hard they made us work for this series,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said after his team punched its ticket to the Final. “They had an exceptional season considering all the injuries and stuff they had. As far as our group, we didn’t want to go to Game 7. I think we recognized how dangerous a team they are and I think history has proven that we want to finish these series as quickly as possible and get as much rest as possible and I think, mission accomplished.”
“I told the group (after the game) that I’ve been this far once before (2012 with New Jersey Devils) and as great a night as this is, if you don’t win the next round, it’s still not a great summer so I think we’ll enjoy this (win) tonight and our focus will turn to the big prize on Friday.”
It will also be the first trip to the Stanley Cup Final for Sharks Veterans Joe Thornton and Marleau, who were drafted 1st and 2nd overall, respectively, in the first round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.
“The fans here (San Jose) have waited so long, 25 years, and we’ve waited 18 years or so, so it’s a great feeling,” said Thornton.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before…Joe Pavelski scored for San Jose.
Pavelski opened the scoring at 3:57 of the 1st period after Tomas Hertl flipped the puck out of the San Jose zone. Joe Thornton raced to the disc, took possession of it and went in on St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott. Thornton’s shot appeared to go wide to Elliott’s blocker side. Thornton chased after the puck behind the Blues’ net with Pavelski and a St. Louis defenseman. Pavelski came up with it and, with Elliott looking to his right, the Sharks captain wrapped the puck into the net on Elliot’s left. The Blues netminder attempted to get across the crease to make the save and got his pad on the puck but Pavelski took a second swipe at it and put the puck into the back of the net to give San Jose a 1-0 lead. It was his league-leading 13th goal of the playoffs.
Joel Ward gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead at 5:02 of the second period. Chris Tierney won a battle for the puck in the right corner of the St. Louis end and fed a pass back to Brent Burns at the point. Burns sent a hard shot at Elliott but Ward was positioned in front of Elliott and he redirected the puck to the left of the goaltender into the net.
The Sharks scored three goals in the third period and it was Ward who found the back of the net for his second lamplighter of the game at the 3:01 mark. He possessed the puck at the right half-wall in the Blues’ zone, sent a cross-ice pass to Couture in the left faceoff circle. Couture approached the net with Ward streaking toward Elliot’s crease. Couture returned the pass to Ward and he redirected the puck over the glove hand of the St. Louis puck stopper for a 3-0 Sharks lead. It was the second consecutive game in which Ward scored two goals.
Joonas Donskoi appeared to seal the series for San Jose at 8:11 of the third period. He gave the Sharks a 4-0 lead after Marleau skated the puck into the St. Louis zone along the right wing and moved it to his left to Couture. Couture, in the bottom of the right faceoff circle, quickly sent the disc to his left to Donskoi, who was breaking for the net. Donskoi, from the high slot, sent a one-timer low to Elliott’s stick side and the Sharks had a 4-0 lead.
St. Louis Blues did not get this far without being an outstanding team and they did not roll over and play out the string.
Vladimir Tarasenko broke the shutout for St. Louis 11:39 into the third period. The Blues won a faceoff in the left faceoff circle back to the Russian sniper. He sent a slap shot toward the Sharks net from the bottom of the circle but it was blocked. The puck bounced to the right circle where Colton Parayko put it at the net and Jones made the save. The rebound went to Jori Lehtera and San Jose goaltender Martin Jones stopped his shot. Lehtera gathered that rebound, carried it behind the net and passed the puck out to Tarasenko, who had moved into the slot. Tarasenko beat Jones with a high shot into the goal with the goaltender down on his side cutting the Sharks’ lead to 4-1.
Tarasenko struck again at 16:25 of the period to make it a 4-2 game. He and Paul Stastny out-battled two Sharks for the puck at the left half-wall. Stastny moved it to Tarasenko and the winger cut in toward Jones, and with the goaltender covering the left post, put a seeing-eye wrist shot off Jones’ leg pad and into the net for his second goal of the game and ninth of the playoffs.
At that point, St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock replaced Elliott with backup goaltender Jake Allen in a move that was designed to give his players an added few seconds of rest. Soon after play resumed, he pulled Allen for an extra skater hoping to see his club score two more goals which would tie the contest but Couture would score into the empty net with 19 seconds remaining in the game and San Jose was on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is scheduled for Monday, May 30th at a site to be determined pending the result of Thursday night’s Eastern Conference Game 7 between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
Stat of the Night:
The San Jose Sharks are the first team to advance to the Stanley Cup Final after missing the playoffs the previous season since the 2011-12 New Jersey Devils. Both achieved the feat under a head coach in his first season with the club – Pete DeBoer.
Logan Couture leads the NHL with 16 assists and 24 points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs extending San Jose Sharks records for a playoff year.
Logan Couture posted his third three-point game of the 2016 postseason, all of which have been earned in series-clinching wins.
Per Elias Sports Bureau, Logan Couture became the third player in NHL history to record three or more points in three series-clinching wins within a single postseason, joining Jari Kurri (1985) and Wayne Gretzky (1985, 1988, 1993).
Joel Ward posted consecutive multi-goal games for the first time in his career (regular season and playoffs).
Thursday’s Stanley Cup Playoff Schedule:
Game 7 – Eastern Conference Finals – Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins (8:00 pm ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The best-of-seven series is tied 3-3. The winner will advance to play against San Jose in the Stanley Cup Final.
Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.