It was there for the taking. High energy crowd, a solid start and even a lead after the first period. This was the Blues team that had won two rounds, they were back and ready to put a strangle hold on this series. But we're the Blues, we can't have nice things.
The first period was so much better than the last time we played at home. We were hitting, getting the forecheck going and even getting shots on goal. Even with such a great start the Sharks still managed to quit the crowd quickly. After an icing call the Blues were unable to change lines and, in what would be a key tonight, the Sharks were able to get their top line on. A faceoff win by Joe Thornton, another key tonight, led to a screened shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic that eluded Jake Allen in yet another theme tonight.
As a fan, though, I wasn't worried about being down early as the Blues have a penchant for coming back in games. Yes, you could say they didn't do that in Games 2 and 3 but this looked like a far hungrier team than that one. Thankfully the Blues helped a brother out by netting the tying goal just over three minutes later.
Once again a good forecheck by the big boys David Backes and Patrik Berglund got the play rolling. Jaden Schwartz would find a wide open Kevin Shattenkirk who fired a shot at Martin Jones. The rebound came out to Berglund who flung a shot that hit Backes in front of the net and fell to Schwartz who buried it past Jones for the tying goal. It was Schwartz's first goal in 13 games and couldn't have come at a better time.
The Sharks would start swarming again, peppering Jake Allen with shots but Allen turned them all aside including a point blank look from NHL point leader Logan Couture.
The Blues would go ahead near the end of the period with a play that would look pretty on the baseball diamond. Alex Steen would carry the puck in and hit Paul Stastny in the slot. Stastny would put the puck on net and Jones came way out to make the save. The puck went up in the air and Jones lost sight of it, but not Troy Browuer. Eyeing up the juicy rebound like a batting practice fastball, Browuer swung and hit a seeing eye single into the back of the net for the lead.
Momentum, the score and good feelings were on the Blues side at the end of the period but not fate apparently. The team who scored first in the series so far had won every game, uh oh.
The second period started out very heavy in that both teams came out hitting. The Blues a little bit more than San Jose and it cost them. Shattenkirk took offense to a Tommy WIngels hit and cross checked his head almost off. While both players went off for fighting, it was Shatty with the extra minor. The "potent" Sharks power play came on the ice and while the Blues had held them at bay you could feel a crest in the wave coming.
It wasn't the top unit that did the damage and it almost wasn't a power play goal, as it was scored with just a second left in the minor. Schwartz got stung on a shot and wound up out of position when Vlasic got the puck along the half boards. The initial shot was stopped by Allen but it flipped over his back and Joel Ward did his best Brouwer impression by tipping it out of mid-air into the net. The worst part of the goal was that Alex Pietrangelo was right there and didn't clear Ward out from the front of the net which could have prevented the goal.
Just like that we had a brand new game.
The Blues didn't back down though as Berglund would get a breakaway a short time later but Jones got just enough on it to push it to the netting. Than it was the Blues turn on the power play as Dmitrij Jaskin opened the Polak door and gained a man advantage for the Blues.
If the Blues are looking for another superstar to help Vladimir Tarasenko, they need to look no farther than Robby Fabbri. The kid was unreal tonight and really the whole postseason. This particular power play showcased his full talent. Off the faceoff he took Vlasic to the boards and battled the hell out of it until the puck was pulled free by the Blues, he gained possession and took it to the point before sliding a pass to Petro. Pietrangelo found Colton Parayko who could have ripped a shot but opted to give it Fabbri at the top of the zone who bombed a shot past Jones for the lead.
The Blues and their fans were riding high and it looked like a lead heading to the third was well in hand. Than Brent Burns woke up and remembered he was pretty good. He fired a pass through the middle of the ice to a streaking Tomas Hertl who was "hooked", I use that term loosely, by Shattenkirk setting up another Sharks power play.
Another failed clear out attempt by the Blues leads to the Sharks holding the zone play. It looks like Parayko kind of gets caught in no mans land behind the net allowing Joe Thornton time to assess what he wants to do, even though we all know he is going to pass the puck. And guess what? He does, to a wide open Joe Pavelski who wires a shot past Allen to tie the game with just under a minute and a half to go in the second.
That goal seemed to just take the sails out of the Blues and the fans but it was the start of the third that killed everything else in St. Louis. The opening faceoff was won by the Blues and promptly iced. And remember that key at the beginning of the story? Well it reared its ugly head. Bad line matchup for the Blues, a faceoff win by Thornton and the shot by Burns that Pavelski is able to tip in past Allen for the quick lead.
Instead of pushing and playing reckless in an attempt to tue the game up the Blues became unhinged and lethargic. A bench minor for too many men would dampen down the fans and the period never seemed to get going after that. Oh yes the Blues hit a cross bar and Berglund had a glorious chance to tie it but the Sharks put on a clinic yet again on how to hold a lead.
Martin Jones was ripe for the picking too as he let in some bad goals in Game 4 and some bad ones tonight. He just wasn't seeing the puck and if the Blues would have had any concentrated pressure in the zone he would have been beaten again for sure. But alas the team who wanted it more got it and that was the Sharks. This was no more evident than with Allen pulled.
The Sharks completely out-battled the Blues IN THEIR OWN ZONE, Pietrangelo seemed to forget how to pass a puck and Chris Tierney would ice the game with an empty net goal. Joel Ward would plunge salt into the would with a second empty netter just seconds later.
This was an easily winnable game and one the Blues needed. Even though they played a much better game tonight there was still much to be desired in their effort. Vladi has to be hurt because he is doing nothing out there on offense or defense, the puck is still staying on our sticks just a second too long and we are still taking too many penalties.
Now its make or break time for the Blues in Game 6 Wednesday night in San Jose. But take heart fans, the Blues play great on the road this postseason. Just get us to Game 7!
#3 - Joe Thornton: 3 Assists
#2 - Marc-Edouard Vlasic: Goal and an assist
#1 - Joe Pavelski: 2 goals and an assist