Sharks 5, Blues 4 (OT): Blown call helps Sharks take 2-1 series lead

Hand of Meier

Well, that was ... interesting. Let’s cut right to the chase. Meier took a shot, then hit the puck with his glove, which bounced off his chest, into open ice, and onto Nyquist’s stick blade. He passed it to his countryman Karlsson who put it in the back of the net. The play was a hand pass and should’ve been ruled dead.

Should the play have been reviewable? Yeah, probably. Would that have helped anything? Maybe. Perhaps the referees should also have reviewed the clear puck-over-glass play by Perron that preceded a Blues goal by ... Perron.

The Blues had their chances to put the Sharks away earlier. They controlled the neutral zone for the entire third period and much of the second. They took over the game after the Sharks took a 3-1 lead. They had plenty of chances that they didn’t finish, and they got away with a few things of their own, as well.

San Jose finished with 48 percent of score- and venue-adjusted 5-on-5 shots and 52 percent of adjusted expected goals (Natural Stat Trick), but their excellent first period did a lot of heavy lifting for both of those metrics. The game was mostly St. Louis for two-plus periods, and it looks like they may have found an answer to the Sharks’ neutral zone strategy.

By cutting off the boards and forcing Sharks’ defenders to make long passes up the middle of the ice, the Blues were able to cause frequent turnovers and take Shark advances back the other way in a hurry. Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist, in particular—nominally part of the Blues fourth line—had their way with who many consider to be one of the league’s deepest forward corps.

At the other end of the Blues’ lineup, Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson kept both Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture at bay. With Parayko and Hertl on the ice at 5-on-5, the Blues took 62 percent of all adjusted shots, though they ceded 63 percent of all expected goals. With Parayko and Couture on the ice, the Blues took 64 percent of all shots and generated 62 percent of all expected goals. After Couture and linemate Meier mostly had their way during the series’ first two games, the Blues were able to silence both of them, as well as the Sharks’ second big line.

Luckily for the Sharks, their new-look third line of Thornton, Labanc, and Melker Karlsson were able to take 76 percent of all adjusted shots and score two goals while doing so. They were able to control their portion of the game by righting Thornton’s previous wrongs against Robert Bortuzzo. With those two players on the ice, the Sharks took 11 shots and allowed just one. That stellar performance from the aging and somehow ageless center kept San Jose in the game.

To win this series, the Sharks must counter the Blues’ approach to their neutral zone tactics. The off-the-boards passes to forwards aren’t working, and the Sharks forecheck was listless against St. Louis’ exits. If DeBoer and his benchmen figure out how to regain the middle of the ice, they’ll win the series.

First Period

19:11: Not off to a good start with a few shots on goal by the Blues early and a few missed assignments/uncertain Sharks letting St. Louis get into dangerous areas easily.

18:26: Did Pierre just say Haley was a big difference maker at one point during Colorado?

13:02: Perron slashes Hertl after a wild few minutes to send San Jose to the power play. The man advantage worked in Game 1 but didn’t do much in Game 2. It will need to produce to help the Sharks take this game and series. St. Louis has come out strong here, so a goal may be helpful in stunting some of this early push.

10:43: Nooooot great. Not horrible, but not very frightening. San Jose will have to figure something out on their power play, because what’s going on now mostly isn’t working.

9:03: Kane feels on the verge of doing something dumb.

6:23: Erik Karlsson knocks home a much-overdue shot for his first goal of the playoffs. Patrick Maroon couldn’t catch a puck going up his boards and Karlsson walked into an open shot.

3:02: Thornton, Labanc, Vlasic, Thornton again for a two-goal lead. Melker was in on the play, certainly, though his contribution was mainly to kick the puck further around the boards. It’s hard to credit DeBoer’s lineup change with the goal too much. But, it’s nice to see that the third line is contributing positively after it had struggled to create much this postseason.

END FIRST: Sharks 2, Blues 0

The Sharks started slowly but sure fought back after a rough start. Walking away from the first period with a 59-41% shot, a 75-25% expected goal, and 2-0 goal advantage is about all you can ask for from the away team. It will be key for the Sharks to maintain this pressure throughout the game. They’ve yet to put together two consistently good periods this series, and doing so will be paramount to going into Game 4 with a series lead. The Sharks limited the Blues to zero shots on goal during the last 10 minutes of the period. A recipe for success moving forward.

Second Period

18:42: Karlsson takes a shot but no one covers for him. His shot rims around hard and leads to a semi-odd man rush the other direction. Despite Karlsson’s greatest efforts, Karlsson can’t corral Barbashev who sends a pass to Steen who finishes the play past Jones, who probably should have had it

18:24: JUMBO! JOSEPH! THORNTON! Immediate response from one of the 100 greatest players of all time puts the Sharks back up 2 goals.

15:55: Tarasenko dusts half the Sharks and pots one top corner. The Blues have been the better team so far this period, but the Sharks have to do better making life difficult for St. Louis on their breakouts.

11:06: Maroon picks off a Karlsson pass in the neutral zone, walks in for a shot that Jones eats. Blues are outshooting the Sharks 7-6 shots on goal and 17-12 on total shots at 5-on-5.

8:28: Puck went out over the glass from Perron’s stick as he tries to clear it from his zone. But, um, the referees don’t see it somehow and it’s not reviewable sooooo, we’re back at evens. Silly, silly stuff.

5:00: Sharks are basically just surviving at this point. They’ve had a few chances, but they’re mostly allowing the Blues to control the game. More of this and the one-goal lead won’t hold.

3:57: Some nice cross-zone passing and the Sharks give up the equalizer after Perron takes a short side shot over Jones’ shoulder and into the back of the net. San Jose has to find something else right now, because they’ve been shut down since Thornton’s second goal.

1:18: Martin Jones lets in a stinker on the power play. Hello darkness my old friend.

END SECOND: Sharks 3, Blues 4

My mistake. It looked like Perron’s shot hit Braun’s leg before it went in. This is probably the most apt way to summarize the second period:

After finishing the first period strong, the Sharks utterly collapse, giving up rush after rush and close shot after close shot. They had no answer for St. Louis’ big push. San Jose took just 38 percent of all 5-on-5 score- and venue-adjusted shots and just 35 percent of all expected goals. That will not get it done even against the worst teams.

Third Period

13:04: The Sharks just cannot get anything going still. The Blues are cutting through them with their breakouts and really closing down San Jose’s neutral zone game. If nothing changes soon, the Sharks are staring down the barrel of another goal and going down 2-1 in the series.

9:04: The Blue have seriously put the clamp down on anything the Sharks are trying to get going. They’re not just sitting back and taking shots, though. They’re totally controlling the neutral zone and going back the other way, quickly. This isn’t pretty right now, and it hasn’t been pretty since the end of the first period.

4:56: This has to be the lowest rate of successful zone entries I’ve seen from the Sharks in quite some time.

0.59.6: LOGAAAAAAAAAAAAAN. Sharks win the faceoff, send the puck around, and Couture and Pavelski combine to tie the game with just less than a minute left.

END REGULATION: Sharks 4, Blues 4

Logan Couture continues his team-MVP run by sliding an equalizer past Binnington to send the game to overtime. The period was fairly even, but it didn’t seem that way watching it. The Sharks’ offense came in small spurts as St. Louis continually clogged the neutral zone and made life difficult for a team reliant on quick exits leading to slot shots. The Meier—Couture—Nyquist line has really struggled tonight, getting locked down by Parayko and Co.

First OT

15:49: This is wild. This is playoffs. I can’t watch; someone please tell me what’s happening.

14:37: ERIIIIIIIIIIIIIIK ERIIIIK. Blues are arguing it’s a hand pass.

FINAL: Sharks 5, Blues 4

San Jose continues to mostly get the game taken to them in overtime. But a hand pass from Timo Meier that goes uncalled ends up as the primary assist on Erik Karlsson’s overtime winner. San Jose was fortunate to walk out of the arena with a win, because they really struggled after going up 3-1.


With another series tied at one game apiece, the San Jose Sharks find themselves experiencing all sorts of déjà vu. Not only have they won the opening game of the series (this time against the St. Louis Blues), but they also gave up the series lead with a ho-hum Game 2. The similarities don’t stop there. Though the Sharks hold a slight, if basically negligible edge in 5-on-5 shots, they are generating an underwhelming rate of expected goals relative to their opponent.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Sharks have taken a bit more than 51 percent of 5-on-5 shots (after adjusting for the score and venue) and have generated just 40 percent of expected goals. Leading the way for the Sharks so far are some familiar faces this postseason. The Logan Couture, Timo Meier, and Gustav Nyquist line stand above the rest of the team in terms of their shot share. Following closely behind is Brenden Dillon who, along with partner Erik Karlsson, is enjoying more success than he has at any point so far this spring.

At the other end of the performance spectrum is Justin Braun, who has helped the Blues outshoot the Sharks by 21 during 5-on-5 play. The likely scratched Marcus Sorensen is next, “helping” the Sharks to a -10 shot differential. Unfortunately, his projected replacement, Melker Karlsson, is right behind his fellow Swede with a negative six differential. Despite Karlsson, M.’s inability to control shot share, he has ushered the Sharks to their seventh-best expected goal differential, a much more impressive figure than anyone on the third line has offered so far.

If there is more good news to be gleaned from head coach Pete DeBoer’s lineup changes for tonight’s pivotal Game 3, it’s that the addition of Micheal Haley to Barclay Goodrow’s wing opposite Joonas Donskoi should provide the fourth line with an offensive boost. While the decision to play Haley over Lukas Radil is fair to scrutinize, it’s pretty easy to see why DeBoer felt Sorensen needed a night off. Should these line changes pay off tonight, Haley may just become a lineup staple for the rest of the series.

Across the ice, Blues head coach Craig Berube moved away from his initial defense pairs of Jay Bouwmeester with Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson with Alex Pietrangelo after the Sharks answered his team’s 2-0 lead. The Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester pair didn’t help matters much, but pairing Parayko with Vince Dunn (and the resulting Robert Bortuzzo with Edmundson combination) seemed to be a major catalyst behind the visitors’ victory. It appears Berube’s gone back to his initial pairings, but it’s apparent he has a switch he can flip if need be.

For the Sharks to win:

  • Their new-look bottom-six will have to outperform its predecessor,
  • They will have to continue containing Vladimir Tarasenko,
  • They’ll have to figure out a way to stop the Patrick Maroon, Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas line,
  • Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane have to add to the team’s 5-on-5 scoring./



Expected scratches: Marcus Sorensen, Lukas Radil, Tim Heed

Blues (via Jeremy Rutherford)

Jaden Schwartz — Brayden Schenn — Vladimir Tarasenko
Sammy Blais — Ryan O’Reilly — David Perron
Patrick Maroon — Tyler Bozak — Robert Thomas
Ivan Barbashev — Oskar Sundqvist — Alex Steen

Joel Edmundson — Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester — Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn — Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington
Jake Allen

Expected scratches: Robby Fabbri, Carl Gunnarsson

Where to Watch

Puck drop will be at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern from Enterprise Center in St. Louis. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports Net in the United States and on CBC and Sportsnet in Canada. You can also listen to the radio call on 98.5 KFOX in the Bay Area.