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Quick Bites: Binnington, Blues beat Sharks in Game 4

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The series now tied at two games apiece.

May 17, 2019; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) defends the net against the San Jose Sharks in the third period during game four of the Western Conference Final of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Enterprise Center. Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks lost last night, but the real worry for Sharks fans should be the condition of Erik Karlsson. Karlsson was laboring at the end of the game and it looked like his groin wasn’t right. He wasn’t on the ice for a seven-minute stretch in the third period, despite the fact that the Sharks were trailing. It’s possible that all he needs is rest, but it’s also possible that we could see Tim Heed in Game 5, which is a scary proposition with the series tied.

As usual, Sharks Captain Joe Pavelski summed it up best: “We battled, we had our chances. We felt like we sustained some attack for a while, but we came up a little short.”

If you caught just the last 25 minutes of the game, you would wonder how in the world the Sharks lost, but it was the first 20 that really did the team in. San Jose let in a goal in the first minute of play, followed by a power play goal later in the period. Two goals was all the St. Louis Blues needed to skate away with a 2-1 win and head back to San Jose with the series tied at two games apiece.

Natural Stat Trick

As shown above, the Blues had the hot start and then Jordan Binnington shut things down. Binnington was exceptional in net, stopping 29 of the 30 shots that he faced. When the Sharks pulled the goalie in the final minutes of the third period, it was Binnington that kept the puck out of the net.

This was essentially the story of the night:

On the other side of the ice, Martin Jones was just as good. The two goals he let in deflected off his own players before they got by him. Jones stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced.

Natural Stat Trick

Everyone knew that St. Louis was angry and they were going to play like it in Game 4. They did not disappoint. Coach Craig Berube tossed out his fourth line of Ivan Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist and Alexander Steen to start the game. It made sense, given that they were the Blues’ best line in Game 3. It paid dividends immediately.

Barbashev scored after Gustav Nyquist tried to get a stick on the puck. Instead of deflecting it away, he changed the angle just enough that the puck beat Jones.

Despite the goal, Jones was solid in net and really kept the Sharks in the game during an onslaught by the Blues. St. Louis had five scoring chances in the first five minutes.

Around that five-minute mark, Brenden Dillon took his first penalty of the night. This is just by eye test, but he was pretty bad last night. With Dillon sitting, the Sharks seemed to settle down. They killed the penalty and started to swing the game’s momentum in their favor.

That is until Timo Meier got called for hooking.

The Blues didn’t mess up the ensuing power play.

The Blues won the faceoff to start the power play and fed the puck up to Vladimir Tarasenko at the point. He passed it across to Colton Parayko who immediately passed it back. Tarasenko shot it on net and it looks like Tyler Bozak deflected it. Jones made the initial stop, but the puck was loose in the crease. He poked it with his stick and Justin Braun came in hard to try and negate a Blues player. Instead of helping, Braun kicked the puck five-hole on Jones and into the net.

2-0 Blues at the end of period one.

In the second, the Sharks received their first power play of the night. I have to give a shout out to the referees. I thought the hooking call on Meier in the first period was a little weak, but they called the same hooking penalty on Sammy Blais in the second period. At least there’s consistency.

The Sharks got nothing going on the first power play.

A few minutes later Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brayden Schenn were both sent to the box. Vlasic poked at Binnington’s glove after the whistle and the Blues took exception. Tarasenko slashed at him. Then, along the boards, Schenn gave Vlasic a shove and a gloved punch to the head. The referees didn’t like that last shot and both of Schenn and Vlasic were asked to sit for a few.

I think the 4-on-4 hockey that followed is what really turned the tide for the Sharks. They were all over the Blues with more than a minute of sustained zone time. It gave San Jose momentum that they took into the third period.

San Jose was really threatening to score when a series of dumb mistakes by Dillion slowed the momentum. At 4:35 of the third period, Dillon was called for high-sticking Pat Maroon. It was Dillon’s second penalty of the night.

On the kill, the Sharks drew a penalty of their own when Alex Pietrangelo was called for interference. 47 seconds later, the Sharks scored their first and only goal of the night.

Inside the Blues’ zone, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns passed the puck back and forth at the blueline. Burns finally saw and opening and fired a shot on net. The puck squeaked through Binnington and the puck sat in the crease for just a moment before Tomas Hertl got a stick on it to push the puck into the net and cut the Blues' lead in half.

Following the goal, there was plenty of pressure by the Sharks and plenty of good saves by Binnington. The Sharks could not break through, even when they pulled Jones for the extra attacker.

Other notes from the game: Dillon made another bad play at the 12:33 mark of the third period when he passed the puck towards the Sharks’ bench during a change. It was a pretty obvious too many men penalty after Joe Thornton played the puck while exiting the ice and it was completely avoidable.

We’ll have to wait and see if Blais plays in the next game. He blocked a shot from Burns late in the third period and collapsed on the ice. He was able to make his way to the bench after the whistle, but was wincing in pain.

Also, the Blues once again could not hit the empty net and iced the puck. Something to keep an eye on as the series progresses.

Game 5 is Sunday at noon at SAP Center. Get up early and don your teal.