ST. LOUIS – Patrick Marleau scored in the opening minute, keeping pace with Alex Ovechkin for the NHL scoring lead. The rest of the game was every bit as successful for the San Jose Sharks.
Marleau notched his 38th goal, and rookie backup Thomas Griess made 35 saves, helping the Western Conference leaders begin a six-game trip heading into the Olympic break with a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. Marleau has already matched his career high for goals set last season.
“It’s nice to be up there right now knowing you’re among the top guys,” Marleau said. “It’s one of those things you’ve got to take in stride and not kind of think about it too much, and keep playing.”
Ryane Clowe, Devin Setoguchi and Scott Nichol also scored for the Sharks, who rebounded from their lone regulation loss in the last 11 games after squandering a two-goal lead against Detroit two days earlier. San Jose has 83 points, one behind Washington for first overall in the NHL.
“You want to get those wins early because as a road trip goes on, you can get a little bit weary,” Marleau said. “I think everybody is excited. We have a good chance to buckle down and kind of just let it all out.”
Patrik Berglund had a goal and an assist, and Alex Steen also scored for the Blues, an NHL-worst 9-15-5 at home while getting outscored 90-71. Backup goalie Ty Conklin, who made 27 saves, fell to 0-6 at the Scottrade Center.
Conklin is 1-6 at home overall, including a victory over the Red Wings in a season-opening series in Sweden, and 7-2-1 with a 1.70 goals-against average on the road. He got the start a day after Chris Mason helped the Blues win 3-2 in Chicago.
“I don’t think I need to explain it or describe it, it’s pretty self-explanatory really,” Conklin said. “I think it just comes down to making the extra save.
“I’ve made an extra save on the road, I haven’t at home.”
Greiss’ strong play made it a relaxing night off for Evgeni Nabokov, who had made seven straight starts. Griess faced 15 shots in the third period.
“Thomas is kind of like a photo copy machine,” coach Todd McLellan said. “They threw a lot of pucks at the net, and for him having not played in a while there’s a lot of bodies coming at him, too.
“I think he did a real admirable job.”
St. Louis had shown signs of improvement at home recently, getting points in its previous five games, but played catchup most of the night against San Jose. The Sharks are 18-6-2 on the road, third-best in the NHL.
Marleau’s goal total beats the point total of Blues top scorers Brad Boyes and Paul Kariya, tied at 35 points apiece. Marleau gave the Sharks the lead after only 21 seconds off a feed from Joe Thornton, who collected the rebound of a backhand shot by Dany Heatley.
Clowe capitalized on a big rebound for his 14th goal at 7:53 of the first, putting the Sharks up by two. Berglund answered with a power-play goal midway through the period, but Setoguchi slipped the puck under a diving Conklin on a power play late in the second to make it 3-1.
Steen cut the gap to one goal with a shot that deflected off the skate of Sharks defenceman Jay Leach at 8:39 of the third. Nichol’s third goal with 4:48 to go gave the Sharks their third two-goal cushion.
NOTES: The Blues announced their 22nd sellout of the season, although there were hundreds of empty seats at the Scottrade Center possibly due to a forecast of snow. … The Sharks finished 3-1 against the Blues. … Sharks D Dan Boyle (lower-body injury) missed his sixth straight game.