Sharks score four goals in first period
Antti Niemi saved 21 of 24 shots; Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak combined to stop 26 of the Sharks' 31 shots. (USATSI)
SAN JOSE -- In a battle of teams that entered with the top two winning percentages in the NHL, Brent Burns’ first career hat trick and four first period goals helped the Sharks to a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on Friday afternoon at SAP Center.
St. Louis nearly came all the way back from an early 4-0 hole, with a pair of second period markers and another in the third. Jaden Schwartz’s conversion on a two-on-one rush made it a 4-3 game with eight minutes and 41 seconds left in regulation.
But Burns put any thoughts of a comeback to rest just one minute later. On a Sharks power play, Burns cut to the net and beat Jaroslav Halak to the short side with Joe Pavelski providing a screen, and hats began to rain down onto the home ice surface.
San Jose improved to 4-0 on its season long five-game homestand. The Blues’ five-game winning streak was snapped.
The Sharks stormed out to an early 4-0 lead midway through the first period, thanks to a combination of skilled plays and poor puck management by the Blues.
In the first minute, Blues defenseman Barret Jackman turned the puck over the Logan Couture in the Sharks’ offensive zone. Couture pushed it to Patrick Marleau, who then fed Burns through the slot for a one-timer that beat Brian Elliott just 35 seconds into the game.
San Jose’s first power play came shortly after that, and the Sharks ended a 0-for-14 stretch when Pavelski’s backhanded pass from the side of the net resulted in Joe Thornton’s fourth goal at 3:01.
A perfect breakout led to Burns’ second goal of the game at 9:14, to give San Jose a 3-0 lead, as Burns was able to redirect a feed from Thornton for his seventh of the season. Tommy Wingels made it 4-0 at 11:27, racing from his own blue line after Jay Bouwmeester fumbled with the puck, and depositing a wrist shot from the circle that Elliott should have been able to bat away.
Elliott was replaced by Halak to start the second period after allowing four goals on 12 shots.
Antti Niemi faced just two shots in the first period, but made some key stops in the second as play evened out. He denied T.J. Oshie in the first minute of the second with a left pad, successfully challenged Vladimir Tarasenko when the Blues forward cut to the slot, and gloved an Ian Cole laser late in the second as time expired on a holding penalty to Dan Boyle.
Cole scored the Blues’ only goal of the second at 11:03 of the second on a three-on-two rush. David Backes made it 4-2 with a power play goal at 2:02 of the third.
The Sharks have outscored the opposition 36-13 in the first period this season, a +23 differential. Los Angeles is second in the league with a +11 first period rating.
The game featured the first time that Boyle and St. Louis’ Maxim Lapierre opposed one another since Lapierre hit Boyle from behind on Oct. 15 in St. Louis. Boyle missed seven games with a head injury, and the NHL suspended Lapierre for five games.
Couture had three assists for the second time in four games. Tomas Hertl’s empty-net goal capped the scoring.
The Sharks finished 2-for-7 on the power play, their first game with multiple power play goals since Nov. 10 in Winnipeg.
St. Louis was 1-for-7, and scored two goals in four-on-four situations.
Backes was issued a two-minute minor for cross-checking Brad Stuart at 5:50 of the second, and a 10-minute misconduct after the ensuing scrum.
Niemi made his fifth straight start, and made 21 saves to notch his 14th win. He’s 7-6-0 in his career against the Blues.
Halak stopped 18 of 19 shots in a no-decision. Elliott took the loss to drop to 4-1-1 on the season.
Matt Pelech was inserted in the lineup on the fourth line in place of James Sheppard. It was Pelech’s sixth game of the year, and first since he was recalled from Worcester on Tuesday.
The Anaheim Ducks visit on Saturday night in the final game of the Sharks’ homestand. It’s the first of five games between the two teams, who are tied for the Pacific Division lead with 39 points, although the Sharks have played three fewer games.
The Sharks begin a four-game road trip in Toronto on Dec. 3.