The San Jose Sharks are in the Western Conference Final for the fourth time in their history, but they’d never led a series this deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs until Thursday.
Tomas Hertl scored two goals, Martin Jones made 22 saves for his second straight shutout, and the Sharks defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-0 in Game 3 at SAP Center to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
The Sharks are two wins away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final, but they’re not looking past Game 4, which is in San Jose on Saturday.
It was Jones’ third shutout of the playoffs — all in the past four games — tying Evgeni Nabokov for most in a single postseason (2004) in San Jose history.
Jones has not allowed a goal since Blues forward Jori Lehtera scored at 9:15 of the second period in Game 1. St. Louis has gone 150:45 without scoring.
The Blues needed seven games to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and seven to move past the Dallas Stars in the second round.
Blues goaltender Brian Elliott allowed three goals on 14 shots and was replaced by Jake Allen at 6:09 of the third period after Hertl scored his second goal.
Hertl scored in the first and third periods for his first multigoal NHL playoff game. Joonas Donskoi scored in the second period, and Pavelski and Joe Thornton each had two assists.
The Blues had the first four shots, but the Sharks took a 1-0 lead when Hertl scored at 15:53 of the first.
St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko committed a turnover on a pass in the neutral zone, and Thornton moved the puck ahead to Pavelski. The San Jose captain sent a cross-ice pass through traffic to Hertl, who beat Elliott from the top of the left circle with a slap shot high to the glove side.
The Sharks made it 2-0 at 11:44 of the second period on Donskoi’s fourth goal of the postseason. Once again, the Sharks capitalized on a turnover. This time, Donskoi broke up Robby Fabbri’s pass in San Jose’s end and started a 3-on-2 rush. Logan Couture passed from the left circle to the trailing Donskoi, who was wide open in the slot and scored on a wrist shot.
The Blues got their only power play of the game at 15:01 of the second when Couture was called for high-sticking Patrik Berglund. San Jose killed its eighth straight penalty since St. Louis scored on its first power-play opportunity of the series in Game 1.
The Blues were outshooting the Sharks 15-13 after the second period but trailed by two goals. San Jose is 7-0 in the playoffs when leading entering the third.
Hertl increased San Jose’s lead with 13:51 left when he scored his fifth goal of the playoffs. He took a pass from Thornton below the goal line, skated in front of the crease and beat Elliott with a wrist shot.
Hitchcock promised changes to his lineup for Game 3, and there were plenty of them. Forwards Dmitrij Jaskin and Magnus Paajarvi replaced Steve Ott and Scottie Upshall on the fourth line. Paajarvi played his first career NHL playoff game. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo replaced rookie Joel Edmundson in the lineup and skated on the third pair with Carl Gunnarsson. Parayko moved up to the second pair with Kevin Shattenkirk.
Hitchcock also moved center Alexander Steen from the third line to the first. Steen traded places with Lehtera and skated between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. Lehtera skated between Berglund and David Backes.
The Blues dominated play early but couldn’t score.