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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final

Blues, Sharks getting physical in first two games

By Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

Considering the buildup that took place Saturday night between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks, maybe the end result was the climax of what both teams feel will be a a rugged and physical series as it becomes a race to three.

The fallout of the Blues' 3-0 win means this: when the teams shift gears and move out West to San Jose and HP Pavilion, strap your seat belts because whoever moves on to the Western Conference Semifinals will be battered and bruised.

"I'm sure it's going to be physical," Blues captain David Backes said. "That's playoff hockey. It's physical and every battle's huge. It's one shift at a time and take it as it goes. Whoever can stay with their game plan the longest is going to have success."

The Blues were not necessarily in a must-win mode, but going down 0-2 and heading on the road needing to win four of five games was not in their best interests. So when the temperature rose, the Blues elevated themselves up the mercury meter and matched San Jose's grit when it mattered.

"We had to win this game at home and there was a lot of fire in the guys," Blues winger Andy McDonald said. "Everybody stood up for each other, so it was a great sign."

BLUES VS. SHARKS

Sharks not satisfied with split in St. Louis

By Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent
Most teams would be happy to split the opening two games of a series on the road, but San Jose is looking for more. READ MORE ›

Added Blues defenseman Barret Jackman: "Just playing hard. They're coming to the net hard, we're going to their net hard. A lot of little scrums there. Just a little mix-up at the end and that's the way the playoffs are. We go back at them in San Jose and hopefully we play the same game.

"It's the playoffs. You look at any series, there's bad blood. You're battling hard every shift. That's two games now out of a possible seven and every one's going to be like that."

Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle agreed.

"It's a physical game," Boyle said. "They were trying to impose themselves on us. We could probably do a better job of being more physical. We can always do a better job there. We'll take it back home and improve on what needs to be improved on."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said his young team grew up in the face of adversity against a team that's been there, done that.

"I don't know that you need a game like this, but this is what it is at this time of the year," Hitchcock said. "I've seen this before. We were on the opposite side.

"We are playing a very good hockey club that's playing for their lives right now. They know what's at stake, and they gave us a push. I thought we really grew up. We needed to grow up quick after the first period, and our game matured and our compete level matured to hopefully make this a good series."

The teams combined for 132 minutes in penalties, including 88 of them at the final whistle when there were three fights and a set of game misconducts.

But when the game was played, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said the Blues were harder on plays when the intensity level rose.

"I thought they were harder the whole night," McLellan said of the Blues. "I just thought when the puck was along the boards, they battled and had body position. They were strong on sticks, they played a very intense game along there.

"Early in the game, we matched it, but as the game went on more, we didn't."

Said Sharks captain Joe Thornton: "We had chances but didn't bear down and finish.

"We had our looks. We definitely had our looks. ... We would have liked to win [Game 2], but now we have home ice and we have to take advantage of it."

The Blues and Backes will try to regain the home ice edge.

"It's high emotions," Backes said. "They're playing for their lives, we're playing for our lives. It's a physical game. Each team thinks they had a few liberties taken on them. That's how you respond in the game of hockey. It's nothing outside the lines."

The Blues will know more later Sunday about the status of goalie Jaroslav Halak, who was removed a minute into the second period after being inadvertently run over by Jackman. He left with a lower-body injury and did not return, as Brian Elliott came on in relief and stopped 17 shots to preserve the shutout win.

The Sharks said that fourth-line center Dominic Moore suffered a broken nose from his fight with the Blues' Vladimir Sobotka, a play in which McLellan called it a "sucker-punch."

I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.

— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the series-winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round