ST. LOUIS – In his 30th game since returning from a concussion that sidelined him for more than a year, David Perron appears to be hitting his stride. Considering it was Andy McDonald’s first game since he sustained a concussion in early October, he felt pretty good, too.
Perron scored for the sixth time in four games and McDonald’s speed was an immediate factor as he emerged from a 51-game absence in the St. Louis Blues’ 3-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night.
“I’ll certainly take the goals that are coming my way right now,” Perron said. “Mostly the wins, for sure.”
McDonald earned an assist on the first goal. He complained only about pre-game nerves—and timing.
“It’s nice to be back,” he said. “It’s been so long, kind of a long road to recovery.”
Alex Pietrangelo and Perron scored with a two-man advantage and Pietrangelo had a three-point night after adding an empty-net goal in the final seconds.
Jaroslav Halak earned his sixth shutout, one more than all-star teammate Brian Elliott has, as the Blues extended a franchise record by earning at least one point in 19 consecutive home games. They’re 16-0-3 at home since a 5-2 loss to Chicago on Dec. 3 and an NHL-best 24-3-4 overall, topping their total of 23 wins last season.
The Blues bounced back quickly, too, after beating the Avalanche on Saturday night. They are 20 games above .500 for the first time since March 27, 2003.
“We had no passengers,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I was really impressed right from the opening faceoff.”
Antti Niemi made 25 saves for the Pacific Division-leading Sharks, who came up empty in the opener of a season-long, nine-game trip. San Jose, which next plays at home Feb. 28 against the Flyers, has lost three of four overall.
“Well, we really didn’t test Halak to get a good chance,” forward Ryane Clowe said. “A couple of times we had shots that he saw and they just cleared it right out again. No sustained pressure.”
In addition to their penalty problems, the Sharks were 0 for 4 on the power play after going 7 for 14 in the previous four games. Three of the power plays came in the third period.
“It had been playing very well and did nothing for us at all,” coach Todd McLellan said. “It actually lost us momentum, and it can’t work that way.”
Halak was yanked from his previous start, a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils. But he is 13-2-3 in his last 19 starts since Nov. 29 and his 1.66 goals-against average during that time and prior to Sunday was the NHL’s best.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Jaro, going right back to him,” Hitchcock said.
Perron’s last three goals have come on the power play and he has 10 goals in 30 games overall. He returned in early December from a concussion sustained on a mid-ice hit by the Sharks’ Joe Thornton in November 2010.
The Blues immediately plugged McDonald into the regular rotation plus power-play duty, and he added an element of speed to the lineup. McDonald earned the second assist on Pietrangelo’s goal. Perron said McDonald was probably the team’s best forward.
“Mac is such an influence on the ice,” Pietrangelo added. “We can stand here all day and talk about how great Mac is.”
The Blues have four power-play goals in the last two games after entering the weekend in a 2-for-35 slump.
St. Louis is 3-0 against the Sharks this season, including a 1-0 shutout by Elliott on Dec. 10 in St. Louis. It’s the Sharks’ first three-game losing streak against the Blues since dropping five in a row Jan. 9 to Dec. 18, 2003.
Counting Elliott’s shutout, the Blues have a shutout streak of 124 minutes 56 seconds at home against the Sharks. Hitchcock said San Jose has a “respect factor” that elevates his team’s play.
“I think we’re a little bit afraid if we don’t check what’s going to happen,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve seen them dominate teams and really steamroll teams.
“If we check hard, we give ourselves a fighting chance.”
The Sharks were whistled for three penalties in a span of three minutes and Pietrangelo capitalized with his ninth goal on a two-man advantage at 15:03 of the first. San Jose was outshot 10-7 in the period, managing just three shots in the last 15 minutes.
Clowe and Brad Winchester drew simultaneous tripping and elbowing penalties in the second period, respectively, and it cost the Sharks again. Perron whiffed on a rebound attempt from the side of the net but got a second chance when the puck deflected off Niemi’s back, and he slipped in a backhander.
Notes: Pietrangelo scored for the first time in nine games, although he had four assists during that time. … Niemi has lost four straight to the Blues. … Logan Couture’s career-best, eight-game point streak ended. He totalled five goals and seven assists. … The Blues are 22-1-1 when leading after two periods.