SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A record-setting defense carried the St. Louis Blues to the Central Division title in a breakthrough season. When they can pair a potent power play with a stingy, tight-checking mentality they truly are tough to beat.
Patrik Berglund scored the first of St. Louis' three man-advantage goals, and the Blues throttled the San Jose Sharks until the closing minutes of a 4-3 victory in Game 3 of their first-round series Monday night to take a 2-1 series lead.
"It was the power play. That's where we created some momentum," Berglund said. "It's really good the pucks were bouncing our way on the power play. We've been struggling a whole lot this whole year with the power play. We're coming up big with it now."
Jason Arnott and Alexander Steen also scored on the power play, and Andy McDonald had a goal and two assists as the Blues won their first postseason road game since 2003, snapping an eight-game skid. Brian Elliott made 26 saves in place of injured Jaroslav Halak to give St. Louis its second straight win following a double-overtime loss in Game 1.
Game 4 is Thursday in San Jose.
Brent Burns, Colin White and Logan Couture scored for the Sharks, who again struggled to find answers against St. Louis and lost for the sixth time in seven meetings this season. If San Jose doesn't find a way to penetrate St. Louis soon, the Sharks could exit in the first round after making it to the Western Conference finals the past two seasons.
"I thought we had better legs tonight than we did in Game 2, which was nice to see," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We generated more in the offensive zone than we did in Game 2. The penalty kill has to get better and the power play has to polish up."
After going more than eight years between playoff victories, the second-seeded Blues have now put together back-to-back wins with the same formula that made them so successful in the regular season.
Elliott and Halak have been the backbone of a defense that allowed a record-low 155 goals in the regular season, and a balanced offensive attack takes advantage of whatever mistakes the opposition makes. Five players had at least two points apiece with McDonald recording two assists to go with his goal. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo helped out on three goals.
"We're a young team. We're growing up quick, though," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I can't say enough about Game 2. It's given us new legs and a newfound confidence. We wrestled home ice back again, which is a good sign for us."
For the second straight game, the Blues took control in the second period. McDonald got them off to the fast start when Berglund deflected Colaiacovo's point shot off the post, and McDonald knocked the rebound into an open net just 1:01 in.