ST. LOUIS – Even though the San Jose Sharks were decidedly outplayed, they needed only 16 seconds of good play to extend their unbeaten streak to 11 games.
Dany Heatley and Jed Ortmeyer scored 16 seconds apart in the second period and the Sharks improved to 9-0-2 in their last 11 games with a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
The Sharks, who lead the Western Conference with 31 points, knew they would be in for a fight against the Blues. St. Louis has struggled this season, especially at home, and team owner Dave Checketts challenged the club on Friday to win now.
“We had a tiger by the tail,” Sharks coach Todd McClellan said of the Blues. “You know when ownership challenges the hockey club from everybody on down, we knew they were going to come out and play extremely hard. To get the two quick goals kind of took a little bit of steam out of their sails. They continued to play hard but it was important for us.”
Joe Thornton added an empty-net goal, and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 38 shots for the Sharks, who have not lost in regulation since a 5-2 defeat on Oct. 22 at Tampa Bay.
Heatley scored his 13th on the power play at 8:23 of the second, and Ortmeyer netted his fourth to make it 2-1 after a bad giveaway by Blues defenceman Erik Johnson.
“Obviously, it was the difference in the game,” Ortmeyer said. “I think it took a lot of momentum away from them and gave us lots of energy.”
Johnson tried to make a stretch pass from behind his own goal through the middle of the ice but it was picked off by Manny Malhotra. Mason stopped Malhotra’s drive from the slot, but Ortmeyer was on the doorstep and popped in the rebound.
“Bad play by me. Park it and move on, learn from it,” Johnson said. “They were pressing down pretty hard on (Carlo Colaiacovo) in a set breakout and they had a guy kind of right on me on the other side of the net. I just shot it up the middle to (Malhotra) streaking; just not a very good play.
“I should have gone off the glass or something a lot safer.”
St. Louis, which has one victory in its last eight games (1-4-3), fell to 3-7-1 in home games.
The Blues got a first-period goal from Jay McClement, and Chris Mason stopped 14 shots in defeat. They have scored two goals or fewer in 12 of 18 games overall and eight of 10 at home.
“We’ve certainly have had trouble scoring. That’s been our Achilles’ from the beginning of the season,” Blues coach Andy Murray said. “We’re playing hard. We’re battling. Tonight was a complete reversal from our game against Nashville.
“I don’t know if we gave up eight scoring chances tonight. We certainly had double that. Our goal scorers are squeezing their sticks. Pucks are laying there or they’re just going by the net or we’re not putting it in. Keep working, and the pucks that are not going in now will find a way to go in for us.”
McClement put the Blues ahead 1-0 after his backhander from the side of the net caromed off the back of Nabokov’s legs. Brad Winchester intercepted Derek Joslin’s clearing pass and kept the puck in the San Jose zone to keep the play alive.
The Blues outshot the Sharks 16-7 in the opening period and 24-12 through two but were down by a goal because of Nabokov.
“They were shooting from everywhere and going for the rebounds,” Nabokov said. “It obviously was their plan.”
The Sharks didn’t register their first shot in the third period until there was 1:51 left in the game. Thornton sealed San Jose’s win with 41.2 seconds to play.
The Blues outshot the Sharks 39-17 overall but found themselves on the short end again.
“We had chances, but that’s not good enough,” Blues centre Andy McDonald said. “We need to score goals. Pucks were there and maybe some unlucky bounces, but you need your power play (0 for 6) to step up on a night like tonight.”
Notes: The Blues had a streak of 18 consecutive penalty kills snapped on Heatley’s goal. … The Sharks have killed 19 straight penalties and 33 of 34 after killing off all six St. Louis power plays. … Blues LW Paul Kariya hasn’t registered a point in 10 games. … Blues RW David Backes left the game early in the second period with an upper body injury and didn’t return.