Blues blank Sharks, 3-0

Sharks

ST. LOUIS – In the final seconds Sunday against a tough Western Conference opponent in San Jose, Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was debating whether he should take aim at a lengthy empty-net opportunity or pass the puck to his goaltender.
“I wasn’t going to shoot and then I heard (David) Backes yell, ‘Shoot,'” Pietrangelo said. “A two-goal lead with five seconds, I’ll take it. Should have passed it to Jaro, maybe give him a chance.”
It’s not supposed to be this smooth-sailing, but the Blues somehow are making life easy on themselves, with Sunday’s 3-0 victory over San Jose as the latest example. A pair of 5-on-3 power-play goals, Pietrangelo’s empty-netter and another shutout by goaltender Jaroslav Halak improved the Blues to 3-0 against the Sharks this season, and they’ve now blanked them in three of their last four meetings.
This is the same team that leads the Pacific Division and entered Sunday as one of three teams in the NHL with three 20-goal scorers, leading the league in shots on goal and converting eight of its last 17 power-play opportunities.
“I think there’s a respect factor that we have for (San Jose),” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “They’re a final four team. I think we’re a little afraid if we don’t check, what’s going to happen. We’ve seen them dominate teams and really steam-roll teams, and I think a little bit out of fear … they’ve got a lot of good players over there and if we check hard, we give ourselves a fighting chance and that’s exactly what we did today. We checked really hard today.”
The return of Andy McDonald to the lineup Sunday was also a benefit to the Blues, as was the suddenly streaking power play. The unit had scored on just two of its last 35 opportunities before Saturday, but with two man-advantage goals in back-to-back games, it was four for 10 at one point.
Both power-play goals Sunday came on a two-man advantage, with Pietrangelo making the Sharks pay for an interference penalty and a delay of game. The Blues took a timeout, and coming out of it, the defenseman ripped a point blast for his ninth goal of the season.
“We have set plays that we run and they weren’t working,” Pietrangelo said. “Me and (T.J. Oshie) talked about that before … if it’s not there, shoot that shot. It might have looked more erratic to you guys than it did to us, but that’s four power-play goals in two games. We don’t care how it looks as long as we get the job done.”
In the second period, the Blues went on another 5-on-3 power play when former Blue Brad Winchester (elbowing) and Ryane Clowe (tripping) took simultaneous minor penalties. David Perron continued his hot streak, pumping in a rebound for his 10th goal of the season and his sixth goal in a four-game scoring streak.
“You play so many games and you’re trying your best in every game,” Perron said. “Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s going to hit the post and you did the exact same shot. I’ll certainly take the goals that are coming my way right now and mostly the wins for our team for sure.”
Perron was battling an illness Sunday and was considered questionable to play. But that didn’t stop him from playing in the hard areas.
“He’s being rewarded for going there,” Hitchcock said. “He’s crashing the net, he’s slicing into the net, he’s taking it off the goal line to the net. He’s got great hands and the biggest thing for me, he’s going into the hard areas to score goals. That’s confidence, that’s competitiveness, whatever you want to call it. But that’s what impressive.”
Hitchcock stressed the importance of special-teams play heading into Sunday’s game, with San Jose piling up power-play goals lately, and the Blues’ penalty-killing unit having surrendered a goal in seven of the team’s last eight games.
The Blues won that battle, keeping San Jose scoreless on four power-play chances, including three in the third period. That’s 10 for 10 against the Sharks in the last two meetings.
“Skating, finally,” Hitchcock said. “We skated hard into coverage. We had the little short pass support that we had before when we were really good. We made short plays to make long plays. We’ve been guilty of trying to make long plays. All in all, both ends of special teams were great … five on five we were great and our goalie was our best player.”
Halak made 25 saves for his fifth shutout in his last 10 games and won for the seventh consecutive time at Scottrade Center. The Sharks have now gone 124 minutes, 56 seconds without scoring in St. Louis, dating back three games.

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