ST. LOUIS –- There were no overt signs of panic or newly formed fist-sized holes in the walls of the visiting dressing room after the Sharks dropped Game 1 of their Western Conference Final series with the Blues on Sunday night.
After all, the veteran club responded well from its two previous losses in the second round against Nashville with a pair of resounding victories.
Still, San Jose could have done some things better in a game that was there for the taking. Instead, they trail for the first time in the playoffs after a 2-1 loss to the Blues at Scottrade Center.
It starts with the game-winning goal by St. Louis’ Jori Lehtera that never should have happened. Brent Burns’ pass up the wall was intercepted by the Blues’ forward at center ice, and he raced ahead before powering a slapper through Martin Jones on what was a stoppable shot at 9:15 of the middle frame.
“Obviously, I didn’t see him coming,” Burns said of Lehtera.
Jones said: “It just found a hole.”
Coach Peter DeBoer offered his take on the key moment.
“We turned the puck over. Knuckle shot. Those happen,” he said. “That's not on Jonesy. We’ve got to score more than one goal tonight. We had plenty of chances to do that, and we didn't.”
The power play failed the Sharks. It couldn’t capitalize on three chances and looked generally out of sync after it was so vital in series wins over the Kings and Predators. San Jose had five shots on goal in six minutes of time with a man advantage.
“I don’t think we were maybe as sharp as we could have been — the breakouts, the entries,” Joe Pavelski said. “We could have been a little cleaner.”
Still, there were enough positives for the Sharks that they won’t have to completely throw their game plan into the fireplace against a team that’s considered the favorite.
Despite the Lehtera goal, the second period was a dominant one for San Jose, as it outshot the Blues 16-5 and had all kinds of chances to add to Tomas Hertl’s first period score that knotted the game at 1-1.
That includes a great look for Pavelski about a minute after Lehtera’s score, but the captain’s one-timer was turned aside by Brian Elliott to keep the Blues ahead, 2-1.
“The tragedy of the second period was we spent the whole period in their end and lost the period, 1-0,” DeBoer said. “That was basically the game.”
Some would argue, though, that it should have been a 2-2 game after two on a blown call.
With just over a minute left in the second period, Elliott somehow failed to cover up a slow puck that was sliding in his direction, and with Joel Ward searching for it, the goalie accidentally directed it into his own net.
The ruling on the ice, apparently, was that the whistle had blown before it crossed, though.
Ward said: “I meant to make an attempt on it, and his pad kind of denied me on it. He kind of put it in accidentally. It is what it is.”
DeBoer said the explanation he got was, “Missed it. Sorry.”
That misplay aside, Elliott was fantastic for the Blues, finishing with 31 saves. He officially stopped all 24 Sharks shots he saw in the second and third periods, including some more good looks by San Jose with Jones pulled for an extra attacker, getting just enough of his glove on another Pavelski attempt from the slot with about two minutes left.
“He’s been good all playoffs,” said Pavelski, Elliott’s former teammate at Wisconsin. “You have to give it to him, I guess. But if we can keep getting looks like we had tonight, hopefully we can break through.”
“This time of year, you're not going to win games with one goal,” DeBoer said. “I think the goals were there tonight, and we just didn't stick them in.”
The Sharks will go for the split in St. Louis on Tuesday, trying to break what is now a four-game road losing streak in the postseason.
“We feel good,” Ward said. “Obviously the goal was to win two, but now hopefully we can pull one out here. Just excited to play again.”