The San Jose Sharks had their last contest with the St. Louis Blues in the 2013-14 NHL regular season. That is unfortunate given the domination on-ice since Maxim Lapierre's despicable hit on Dan Boyle.
Two fights broke out after the whistle blew for the match penalty, but none since. Rather than going on the offensive with their fists, the Sharks scored the first five goals of that game en route to a 6-2 victory.
They have at least four goals (16 total) in all three games in this Western Conference rivalry—they have split four meetings in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs—while giving up just seven total goals. They cannot meet again until at least May.
Outside of the three games against a team that had two fluky wins in a dozen games before Lapierre's hit, St. Louis has only given up more than three goals three other times in the 2013-14 NHL season. Yet it was San Jose's defensive prowess that won this game.
Despite narrowly losing all three phases of the possession battle (25-29 faceoffs, 4-3 giveaways and 4-9 takeaways) and thus giving up nine more attempts, the Sharks were able to register five more shots on goal (27-22) because they blocked 14 more (23-9). Having more blocks than shots allowed while the opposition has just one for every three far out-weighs being out-hit 21-11.
San Jose tallied the first marker just before the mid-point of the opening stanza. After getting the puck from Matt Irwin, Martin Havlat fired it off the back boards right to Joe Pavelski on the open side of the net, who said "It was off my stick before I knew it" in the post-game interview.
The Sharks got another goal off the back boards less than three minutes later: Patrick Marleau skated the puck into the right circle and found Justin Braun at the point, and the bounce caromed right to a crashing Irwin for the put-back on the near-side of the slot.
Second periods have been a problem for San Jose, but the lead was stretched to 3-0 just two minutes in: Joe Thornton retrieved the puck behind the net from Tomas Hertl and fed Brent Burns, who lost his defender and skated in front of the net for the point-blank score.
St. Louis did take over late the period, however. After registering a shot and having another attempt blocked during sustained pressure, Ian Cole was able to get the puck to Kevin Shattenkirk, whose shot deflected off Andrew Desjardins past Antti Niemi.
About four minutes later, Alex Pietrangelo got the puck from Alexander Steen and found Jay Bouwmeester, who got the shot through traffic to draw within one just before the period ended. However, the only other score came when Braun's shot wide of the net was retrieved by Marleau, who then shot it off the post where Havlat could put home the rebound with over 11 minutes left.
The win enabled the Sharks to cling to the fifth-best record in the competitive Western Conference. Their next visit with the Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings Thursday will end with them having either won three of four or lost six of eight, and a win means they are back in position for home ice in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.
If they can give a 60-minute effort, perhaps they can tilt the ice their own way in another rink that has haunted them of late.