ST. LOUIS – Each of the three Sharks-Blues games this season has had a different personality. The common denominator is that San Jose captured all of them in regulation, including an important 4-2 win at Scottrade Center on Tuesday night.
[RELATED: Instant Replay: Sharks sweep season series vs. Blues]
On Oct. 15 here, the Sharks used a dirty hit by Maxim Lapierre on Dan Boyle to drive them to a 6-2 win. Brent Burns’ hat trick paced a 6-3 victory on Nov. 29 at SAP Center, and on Tuesday, the Sharks were able to take advantage of a shorthanded and possibly fatigued Blues team playing the second of a back-to-back and without a number of key contributors, including captain David Backes.
“Tonight, I don’t think was indicative of what could happen down the road if we meet in the playoffs,” Todd McLellan said. “They’re going to have a different lineup, they’re going to be a lot fresher, but you have four or five of these games a year, you have to take advantage of it. We were good that way.”
The Sharks were playing a team that was playing for the second straight night for the fourth time in the last six games. San Jose lost the previous three to Minnesota, the Islanders, and Carolina. The Blues were playing their third game in four nights, too.
“We haven’t always taken advantage of that,” said Joe Pavelski, whose first period goal opened the scoring. “When you’re playing your third in [four nights], it doesn’t really matter. You’re not conceding the game, so we knew they wouldn’t lay down, especially at home.”
The victory put the skids on an ugly four-game road losing streak for the Sharks, and was just their second win in the last seven games (2-4-1). But, the fact that it came against the club that entered with the NHL’s best record in terms of winning percentage, and that the Sharks handled some second period adversity that put them on the brink of blowing another multiple-goal lead, made Tuesday’s conclusion a bit of a sigh of relief.
San Jose was dominant for the first half of the game in taking a 3-0 lead behind goals by Pavelski, Matt Irwin and Burns. But, then a big penalty kill by the Blues seemed to give them momentum, and goals from Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester cut the lead to 3-2 at the second break.
That’s when there was a bit of a “wake up call” in the dressing room, as Marty Havlat put it. Havlat, who has struggled to find any consistency in his 19 previous games, gave the Sharks a two-goal cushion back with a third period marker with less than 12 minutes to go in regulation.
Havlat found a loose puck that had hit the post, after Patrick Marleau tipped Justin Braun’s shot off of the iron. It was just his third goal of the year.
“Until they scored the first goal, we didn’t give them much, and we kind of stopped playing when it was 3-0,” Havlat said. “We thought maybe the game was over.”
McLellan said: “We did let the momentum get away on us. We caused it ourselves more than anything. We have to learn from that, as we are throughout the season. There’s areas we have to correct, but in the third period I thought we went out and reestablished it, so that’s a good thing.”
During their recent run of five losses in six games, the Sharks had twice blown multiple-goal leads in losses to the Islanders and Hurricanes. Even against St. Louis on Nov. 29, they saw a 4-0 lead eventually get cut to 4-3.
It’s something they can work moving forward. In the meantime, three defeats of the Blues, who have lost just seven games in regulation all season, is a pretty impressive accomplishment that the Sharks can hang their hats on.
“A lot of different variables that went into the three nights,” McLellan said. “Fortunately for us, we got the points.”