Work in Sports
SAN JOSE, California (Ticker) -- Everyone thought the St. Louis Blues would make easy work of the San Jose Sharks. Everyone was wrong.
Owen Nolan's second goal of the game snapped a tie with 15:20 remaining as the Sharks stunned St. Louis again, 2-1, to take a two games to one lead in their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
"We got the big win," Sharks defenseman Mike Rathje said. "I feel we have to keep playing some good defense, slow them down and keep things simple."
Steve Shields made 31 saves, including several key stops in the third period, as the Sharks took the lead in a playoff series for the first time since surprising the Calgary Flames in the first round in 1995.
St. Louis cruised through the regular season and captured the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's best team with 114 points while nearly tying the league record for most wins in a season. One of three teams in the postseason with losing records, the Sharks finished 27 points behind the Blues.
"This is a great team effort," Nolan said. "We capitalized on a few chances and played great defensively. Don't knock St. Louis. They are a good physical team, but we feel we have a size advantage over them. We want to rotate lines and wear them down defensively."
With the score tied, 1-1, Blues goaltender Roman Turek came out of his crease to make a kick save on Rathje's shot from the slot. Nolan gathered the rebound and wrapped the puck into the vacated net for the game-winner.
"I got the opportunity and took the shot," Rathje said. "Owen just happened to be in the perfect spot."
"We had a little bit of a letdown and they just got the goal," Blues captain Chris Pronger said. "It just as well could have gone our way. We had a lot of opportunities to get the rebound, but we just couldn't cash in."
Nolan, who has been nursing a shoulder injury, has three goals and an assist in the series, while Rathje has a goal and three assists.
Shields stopped all 15 shots in the third period and preserved the lead with just over a minute remaining when he blocked Pronger's attempt from the top of the crease. In the opening minute of the period, Shields gloved Scott Young's wrister on a partial breakaway.
"I had to be patient," Shields said. "Young's shot, I just did not see it. I raised up my glove and it went in."
San Jose caught a break with just under four minutes remaining when Pronger, the Norris Trophy favorite as the league's top defenseman, was sent off with San Jose checking center Ron Sutter for high-sticking. It was Pronger's third penalty of the game, including two for stick-related infractions.
"The first penalty was my fault," Pronger said. "The others are marginal at best. When they called the second, I just didn't even lay my stick on him."
Nolan put the Sharks' fans in a frenzy when he scored a fluke power-play goal 5 1/2 minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead. With St. Louis rookie Tyson Nash off for cross-checking, Nolan's attempted centering pass caromed off Pronger's leg and behind Turek.
Young tied it on the power play with just under five minutes remaining in the first when his turnaround shot from the left faceoff circle beat Shields.
Game Four is Wednesday at San Jose.