Tomas Hertl scored two goals, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton each picked up two assists, and the San Jose Sharks blanked the St. Louis Blues 3-0 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference Final.
The Blues and Sharks headed west after they split two games at Scottrade Center: St. Louis won 2-1 in Game 1 but lost 4-0 in Game 2 on Tuesday.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wasn’t pleased with the way his team played in either game.
“I think changing your lineup has a real impact,” Hitchcock told NHL.com correspondent Eric Gilmore. “There can’t be any emotion in the coaches’ decisions at this time. You have to do what’s best for your team. One of the greatest things we’ve had going through injuries is flexibility. That’s really helped us in the playoffs.”
Sharks third-line left wing Matt Nieto remains day-to-day with an undisclosed injury he sustained in Game 6 of the second round against the Nashville Predators. He has been skating, but didn’t play in the first two games against the Blues.
The Sharks almost cashed in on Vladimir Tarasenko’s turnover, as Tomas Hertl whacked it away. Blues goalie Brian Elliott freezed it.
Hertl cranked a slap shot from the left circle over the glove of Elliott to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 15:53 of the first period. Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton provided the assists on Hertl’s fourth goal of the playoffs.
Alex Pietrangelo was given a minor penalty for charging towards Hertl with just eight seconds left in the first, and the Sharks’ power play was carried into the second period.
Shots (9-7) were in favor of the Blues, but the Sharks led 1-0 after 20 minutes.
The Blues killed off the penalty early in the second.
Joonas Donskoi streaked in on the rush and ripped a wrist shot past Elliott from the slot to make it 2-0 Sharks at the 11:44 mark. Logan Couture provided the lone assist on Donskoi’s fourth goal of the playoffs.
The shots were finally even at 12 apiece.
The Blues went on their first power play of the game after Logan Couture was called for high sticking Patrik Berglund at 15:01.
The Sharks led the Blues 2-0 after 40 minutes: St. Louis outshot San Jose 15-13.
Hertl camped in front of the net and beat Elliott five-hole for his second goal of the game and fifth goal of the playoffs. The Sharks took a 3-0 lead at 6:09 of the third period. Once again, Thornton and Pavelski provided the assists.
Devin Setoguchi recorded the Sharks’ last playoff hat trick on May 4, 2011.
Hertl didn’t notch a hat trick, but the Sharks defeated the Blues 3-0 in Game 3. With the win, San Jose tied a franchise record for most wins in a single postseason (10 wins, 2003-2004).
Martin Jones made 22 saves for the Sharks. Brian Elliott allowed three goals on 14 shots and was replaced by Jake Allen at 6:09 of the third after Hertl scored his second goal.
Jones is the first goaltender in Sharks history to register consecutive shutouts in the postseason.
The Sharks lead 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Postgame was full of smiles from the Sharks.
“It’s unbelievable,” said defenseman Brenden Dillon. “Hertl talks about it all the time. I think he had four goals (on the season) before he was up with those guys and he gets up to 20. I can’t say enough good things about both Joe’s line. Pavs (Pavelski) brings it every night. He’s our captain for a reason. Jumbo (Thornton) just keeps on getting better and better every game. Those guys were huge again for us tonight.”
Forward Joe Thornton received an interesting question: Are you surprised at your age, you’re playing as well as you are?
“No, I know I’m a great player,” Thornton asserted, drawing laughter from the room, “and I love to play and I feel good playing with who I’m playing with. I feel good. I just feel really good about my game, feel great about my linemates’ game, the power play, the whole team game. I’m really, really comfortable with it. It’s been fun.”
Coach Peter DeBoer shared his thoughts about Joe Thornton’s line: “Their line played exactly how they played all year for us. They led the way with how we want to play along with the identity of our team. . .Those guys brought it again tonight like they brought it all year.”
Sharks defenseman Paul Martin played in his 100th career game Thursday night. Sharks announced a sellout crowd of 17,562.
Up Next: Game 4 is scheduled for Saturday at 4:15 pm PT.