First-period goals by Ivan Barbashev and Tyler Bozak held up thanks to a 29-save performance by goalie Jordan Binnington, and the host St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 Friday night to even the Western Conference finals at two wins apiece. Binnington was truly under siege in a final couple of minutes, as was the whole Blues team, but they held strong for the victory -- an outcome that eluded them two nights earlier.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven series will be Sunday afternoon in San Jose, Calif. The West champion will advance to meet the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final. On the heels of their controversial loss in Game 3, the Blues were looking for a quick start and received exactly what they were looking for when Barbashev scored just 35 seconds into the clash.
Sharks defenseman Brent Burns coughed up the puck from behind the net, weakly moving it along the side boards where Barbashev grabbed it and sent a sharp-angled shot that ricocheted off Gustav Nyquist's stick and past startled San Jose netminder Martin Jones. Things looked really good for the hosts when Bozak's power-play goal with 2:07 remaining in the opening frame doubled the lead. Patrick Maroon's deflection of Vladimir Tarasenko's point shot was denied, but in the chaos, Bozak got a piece of the loose puck before it went into the cage.
The Sharks finally found their much-needed jolt of life when Tomas Hertl put the visitors on the board with a power-play goal at 6:48 of the third period. Binnington made the save on a Burns point shot, but the puck trickled through him and into the crease behind him, and Hertl pushed it home for his 10th goal of the playoffs. While Binnington delivered a fantastic performance, Bozak was among the many who blocked shots in the Sharks' final push.
Jones made 20 saves for the Sharks, who could be looking at a key injury issue. Standout defenseman Erik Karlsson appeared to be nursing a groin injury that left him on the bench for seven minutes of the third period, though he returned in the final minutes.
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