SHARKS at BLUES
(St. Louis leads best-of-seven series, 3-1)
TV: CNBC, TSN, RDS2, CSN-CA (HD), FS-MW (HD)
RADIO: 101 ESPN
Big Story: It's been 10 years since St. Louis last won a round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but all that can change with Game 5 on Saturday night at Scottrade Center. Since losing the first game of this series against the Sharks in double overtime, the Blues have won three in a row -- including a sweep at HP Pavilion to take a commanding 3-1 lead. San Jose has yet to solve goalie Brian Elliott or figure out how to stop Andy McDonald and Patrik Berglund, and the late goal by Joe Thornton in Game 4 was the first from its top line in the postseason.
Sharks: Coming from behind in the third period and capturing Game 1 in the second extra period to steal home ice seemed like a huge boost at the time for San Jose, which was swept by St. Louis in the regular-season series. But the Sharks were unable to build on that advantage and are now tasked with winning three straight against a Blues team that has beaten them seven out of eight tries. They were 67 seconds from being blanked on Thursday before Thornton scored off an assist from new linemate Logan Couture, who took the place of Patrick Marleau on the No. 1 line along with Joe Pavelski. Coach Todd McLellan said it was the Sharks' best 60-minute effort of the playoffs, but the team still needs to solve its scoring woes in order to postpone an early summer vacation.
"We're just snakebit for some reason," Thornton said in the San Jose Mercury News. "But it is what it is, and now we have to win some games."
Blues: Home ice in the first round of the playoffs hasn't meant much in this series -- where the road team is now 3-1 -- or around the NHL in general, but St. Louis still has to feel confident trying to close out San Jose in a building where it won 30 times during the regular season, just one behind Detroit for the League lead. While McDonald and Berglund have carried the offensive load over the first four games, 13 different Blues have at least one point, and it was grinding winger B.J. Crombeen who had the only goal in the first 40 minutes Thursday, scoring his first career playoff goal 7:12 into the first period. McDonald and Berglund then teamed up for a power-play goal with eight minutes left that turned out to be necessary insurance after Thornton scored. Elliott finished with 24 saves.
"The goals are just around the net," McDonald said. "For me that's a focus point. With our line we have a lot of good puck movement and chemistry. Obviously in this type of hockey, in playoff hockey, you have to be around the net and the hard areas. That's what I'm trying to do, just get to the net."
Who's Hot: Thornton has factored into each of the last four Sharks goals, with a goal and three assists. Couture posts those same totals for the series. … McDonald has goals in three straight games and a series-leading seven points. Berglund has three goals and six points. Elliott has actually improved upon his regular-season numbers in both goals-against average (1.51 to 1.56) and save percentage (.944 to .940).
Injury Report: St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak, who started the first two games in this series, didn't dress for either game in San Jose and has been wearing a walking boot on his foot. Rookie Jake Allen remains the backup to Elliott while Halak is out.
Stat Pack: Thornton won 71 percent of his faceoffs in Game 4 and Pavelski won 57 percent, but the Sharks were just 4-for-11 on defensive-zone draws when killing a penalty and offensive-zone draws while on the power play. … Crombeen, who has 27 goals in 288 career regular-season games, last scored on Jan. 21 against the Sabres.
Puck Drop: St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock, who won the Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999 and led the Stars back to the Final in 2000, has praised San Jose throughout this series and continued to give the opposition credit after Thursday's game.
"We're growing up quick here, but this team is making us do it, too," Hitchcock said. "I don't think there's one guy in that [dressing] room that thinks we've got anything except three wins. I think every player -- you can just see the mood in the locker room. You get grounded real quick because you know that this series could be 3-1 the other way. But I like the fact that we hung in here in this building, hung in real hard."
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