SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks serve as a sort of measuring stick for St. Louis after making the Western Conference finals the past two seasons while the Blues have missed the playoffs.
This season, the Sharks were no match for the surprising Blues.
Andy McDonald and Kevin Shattenkirk scored power-play goals and St. Louis capped a four-game season sweep of the Sharks with a 3-1 victory Saturday night.
“They’ve had our number pretty good in the past,” forward T.J. Oshie said. “We just kind of came together. We know it’s going to be a hard game. We know we can’t outskill them. They have a lot of skill on that team and a lot of big skill. When we try to go chance for chance against them it’s not going to end well for us.”
Oshie also scored and Jaroslav Halak made 18 saves for the Blues, who outscored the Sharks 10-1 over the final 10 periods played between the teams this season after losing 20 of the previous 26 games between the teams.
“They’re one of the best teams in the league year in and year out,” defenceman Alex Pietrangelo said. “Big points for us there. You never know, we might end up playing them in the first round. Just give them a taste if we do play them of what to expect.”
The Sharks need to do work just to get to the post-season. They have lost nine of their last 12 games to fall out of first place in the Pacific Division and have just a one-point lead over Los Angeles for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We’re in a funk and we need to get out of it and get it going,” defenceman Douglas Murray said. “It’s easy to talk. We have to get it done on the ice, get some wins, get the confidence level up as a team. We’re too good a team to let this go on any longer.”
The Blues completely dominated the season series against the Sharks since scoring three third-period goals in the first meeting to erase a 2-1 deficit. St. Louis then shut out San Jose in two games at home, including one that started this recent skid by the Sharks, and controlled the play this game to extend its longest winning streak against San Jose since winning five straight in 2003.
The Sharks struggled to get the puck on net, much less score. The team that leads the NHL in shots on goal with 34.5 per game this season generated just 10 in the opening 40 minutes, including three in a listless second period. San Jose had one shot on three power plays and 19 overall for the game.
“It didn’t fully portray our lack of zone time and scoring chances,” assistant Matt Shaw said. “Their level of hockey was dramatically better than ours and our execution was poor.”
The Blues got their second power-play goal of the game when Shattenkirk scored on a rebound after a scramble in front of Antti Niemi to make it 3-1. St. Louis then throttled the Sharks after that, giving them no good scoring chances on two power plays.
San Jose got no shots on its only power play in the third period as the Blues coasted to the win, completing a 5-1 road trip that has them tied with Detroit for second place in the Western Conference with 89 points.
“We’re a hard team to play against,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We don’t have much quit in us and we’re willing to work for it.”
Even the return of All-Star forward Logan Couture and Murray from injuries didn’t help the Sharks.
St. Louis took advantage of a fortuitous bounce to take the early lead. After Halak stopped Patrick Marleau on a short-handed breakaway, the Blues attempted to dump the puck behind the San Jose net. Niemi went to play the puck but it caromed off the boards to McDonald, who was all alone for the easy tap-in goal.
The Sharks tied it late in the period when Torrey Mitchell threw a puck on net from the side boards that trickled past Halak to end a scoring drought of 134:07 for the Sharks.
The good feeling lasted only 20 seconds before Oshie tipped Carlo Colaiacovo’s point shot past Niemi to give the Blues a 2-1 lead after one.
“That was the turning point in the game,” Hitchcock said. “We didn’t give them a chance to celebrate. We didn’t give them a chance to gain any momentum, and then we kept the burners up most of the game.”
Notes: Sharks coach Todd McLellan missed his third straight game with concussion symptoms after being hit in the head by a stick last Sunday in Minnesota. … The Blues extended their streak of consecutive penalty kills to 27. … San Jose had gone 164:11 without a goal against St. Louis after being shut out the previous two meetings. … The three shots in the second period for the Sharks were tied for their second fewest in any period this season.