Blues oust Sharks with 3-1 victory

Sunday, April 22, 2012
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo celebrates with goaltender Brian Elliott as time expires in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series Saturday in St. Louis. The Blues won the game 3-1 to win the series 4-1. (CHRIS LEE ~ St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues were 6-7 when coach Ken Hitchcock came aboard. They've been among the NHL's best ever since.

Jamie Langenbrunner and David Perron scored in a 45-second span in the third period, and the Blues woke up in time to put away the San Jose Sharks 3-1 and wrap up their first-round series Saturday night.

"It was a frustrating two periods," Langenbrunner said. "Obviously we wanted to come out and jump to the lead. We had to push them out of the game. We just stuck with it."

Joe Thornton scored in the final minute of the second period for San Jose, and the Sharks seemingly were in control before the flurry that ended their season.

"We competed hard, we just came up on the short end of the stick this time," Thornton said. "Hats off to the Blues. They played great, but it's a terrible feeling right now."

Blues goalie Brian Elliott made 26 saves, and Andy McDonald ended all doubt with an empty-net goal in the final minute. St. Louis, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, won a playoff series for the first time in a decade against a franchise that reached the conference finals the previous two years. St. Louis hadn't won a playoff game in eight years before this series.

"The fans have been waiting a long time and have been very patient," said Blues defenseman Barret Jackman, the lone holdover from the last playoff team in 2004. "It's nice to give them a little taste of what's to come."

The Blues seemed a step slow most of the way in front of a sellout crowd waving white rally towels before tying it with their checking line and getting the go-ahead goal from their top line. They were the first team to come from behind after two periods to win in the series.

"We didn't want to go back there, obviously," Perron said. "Knowing we didn't want to go back there obviously made it that much bigger."

The lightning-strike rally began when Antti Niemi couldn't handle Scott Nichol's bouncing shot from just across the blue line and Langenbrunner tapped it home at 11:16, the first point of the series for both Nichol and Langenbrunner.

Perron deflected Alex Pietrangelo's floater from the point on the next shot, and Elliott made the lead stand with a handful of nice saves the rest of the way. Pietrangelo aimed for the stick, not the net, on the go-ahead goal.

"He's really smart out there," Perron said. "When you look at the replay up top, you see I think his shot was probably six or seven feet wide, so you could tell he was aiming for someone to get a stick on it, and I did."

The Blues had to kill off a delay-of-game penalty on McDonald in the closing minutes, and Elliott calmly handled what could have been a tense situation.

"I mean, you see a difference maker, and we're going to concede him that," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "He's a great goalie."

The Sharks knew they also came up short. Marleau and Pavelski, both 30-goal scorers, had no points in the series. They were 2 for 17 on the power play in the series, including 0-for-2 in Game 5, against the Blues' defense.

"They are stifling," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "They play such a good checking game. They give you absolutely nothing. When you have only four forwards that hit the score sheet in a five-game series, odds are you're not winning."

The Blues were the NHL's best home team with a franchise-record 30 wins and just six regulation losses. They won two at home and two on the road against the Sharks. They were 8-1, counting the regular season, against San Jose.

Hitchcock is giving players today off and then it's back to work while they wait to learn their next opponent. The coach who replaced Davis Payne in early November noted that there was no sense of satisfaction in the locker room.

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