SAN JOSE (CBS / AP) — Brian Elliott made 24 saves, B.J. Crombeen and Andy McDonald scored and the St. Louis Blues moved one win away from the second round of the playoffs, beating the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in Game 4 on Thursday night to take a 3-1 series lead.
Patrik Berglund and David Perron each assisted on both goals for the Blues, who can win their first playoff series since 2002 by beating the Sharks in Game 5 at home Saturday night.
San Jose played well for long stretches, especially in the second and third period, but once again struggled to score against St. Louis’ stingy defense that allowed the fewest goals ever in an 82-game season. Joe Thornton broke the shutout with 1:07 remaining, but the Sharks couldn’t get the equalizer.
The Sharks are in danger of being knocked out in the first round after making it to the Western Conference final the previous two seasons. They need to win three straight games against a team they have beaten once in eight tries this season.
St. Louis withstood a desperate charge by San Jose early in the third to preserve the lead and then took control when Patrick Marleau was called for interfering with Kris Russell in the offensive zone with San Jose on the power play.
The Blues made the Sharks pay when Berglund did a good job tipping Perron’s shot, and McDonald beat Brent Burns to the bouncing rebound in the crease to knock the puck into the empty net for St. Louis’ sixth power-play goal of the series. McDonald has three goals and four assists through four games.
That goal took the life out of the Sharks and the frustrated fans in the sellout crowd who might have seen their final home game of the season.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan shook things up to try to spark his team following two straight losses. He dropped Marleau, who had no points in the first three games, to the second line and moved him to center, moving Logan Couture to the top line. McLellan also suited up Michal Handzus and Brad Winchester in place of Dominic Moore and TJ Galiardi.
It failed to turn the momentum of the series early as the Blues scored first for the third straight game. Both goalies traded tough saves early with Antti Niemi stopping McDonald with a sprawling save at the side of the net and Elliott stoning Couture with his pad on a breakaway.
But Niemi couldn’t stop Crombeen’s shot from the slot off a pass from Patrick Berglund that opened the scoring midway through the first.
The Sharks started much faster in the second period but were unable to get one past Elliott, who has been outstanding since taking over when Jaroslav Halak left with a lower-body injury in the second period of Game 2. Elliott’s best save might have come after he was pushed back into his net with the Sharks on the power play but managed to make a kick save on a shot from his college teammate at Wisconsin, Joe Pavelski.
The Sharks killed off two penalties in the second to keep the deficit at one goal heading into the final period despite giving up a few good scoring chances late in the second.
Notes: The Sharks have won nine playoff series since St. Louis beat Chicago in the first round of the playoffs in 2002. … The Blues killed all four power-play chances and have allowed only two goals on 15 power plays for the series. … Crombeen hadn’t scored since getting his only goal of the regular season on Jan. 21 against Buffalo. … Sharks F Marty Havlat turned 31 Thursday. … Winchester had played in just four of the previous 21 games and Handzus had suited up for three of the past 18.
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