Instant Replay: Sharks feel the Blues again, St. Louis sweeps season series

Instant Replay: Sharks feel the Blues again, St. Louis sweeps season series

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – The way the standings are shaping up, the Sharks and Blues could see each other again in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That might not be so great for San Jose.

The Blues skated to a 4-1 win at SAP Center on Thursday night, holding the Sharks to just 20 shots on goal in sweeping the three-game season series – with all of the wins in regulation.

St. Louis outscored the Sharks 8-1 over the final two meetings, including a 4-0 shutout victory in San Jose on Jan. 14.

Zach Sanford’s second period goal broke a 1-1 tie. A deflected puck banked off of the end boards to his tape, and he lifted it over Aaron Dell at 5:49 of the middle frame.

The Blues didn’t get a power play until midway through the third period, but utilized the opportunity. Alex Steen hit the crossbar with a wrist shot, and Vladimir Tarasenko dove in to poke in the loose puck before Justin Braun could clear it out of the way with less than 12 minutes to go in regulation.

Earlier in the third, Jannik Hansen passed up an opportunity to shoot on a two-on-one, passing the puck to Thornton, who then tried to find Joe Pavelski in the slot but missed the mark. The Sharks managed just seven shots on goal from their forwards.

Tarasenko’s empty net goal with 1:50 to go was the final marker.

The Sharks fell to 3-2-0 on their season-long six-game homestand, with one game remaining. They squandered a chance to leapfrog Minnesota for second place in the Western Conference, although remain seven points ahead of Anaheim in the Pacific Division.

St. Louis continued its playoff push under new coach Mike Yeo, winning its sixth game in the last seven (6-1-0). The Blues improved to 13-7-0 since firing Ken Hitchcock and promoting Yeo on Feb. 1.

The Blues struck first. Scottie Upshall got in the way of a Brent Burns outlet pass in the neutral zone, brought the puck over the offensive blue line, and used Paul Martin as a screen to beat Dell at 16:40.

San Jose tied it just about a minute later, getting some help from defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who booted an attempted pass from Marc-Edouard Vlasic to Joel Ward through his goaltender at 17:45. Vlasic was credited with his fifth of the season.

The Blues, who lost in Anaheim on Wednesday night, are 9-2 in the second half of back-to-backs including seven straight wins.

Special teams

The Sharks finished 0-for-2 on the power play, and were 0-for-11 in the season series with the Blues. They are 3-for-29 in the last nine games overall.

St. Louis was 1-for-1, and 3-for-8 against the Sharks for the season. San Jose had been 10-for-10 on the PK in its last four games.

In goal

Dell lost for the first time in his career at home, after six straight wins, allowing three goals on 35 shots. He started for the fourth time in the last eight games, as the Sharks opt to rest Martin Jones more often down the stretch.

Hutton continues to own the Sharks. He improved to 4-0-1 in his career against San Jose with 19 saves, following up on his 23-save shutout in the previous head-to-head matchup.

Lineup

Thornton’s five-game point streak came to an end.

Up next

The Sharks conclude their homestand, and their season series with Anaheim, on Saturday. San Jose is 2-2-0 against the Ducks this season with a pair of overtime wins, as Anaheim has recorded at least a point in all four meetings (2-0-2).

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.