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Elliott, Blues hang on to defeat Sharks in Game 1

Goalie makes 31 saves, St. Louis grabs lead in Western Conference Final

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Jori Lehtera scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, and Brian Elliott made 31 saves to help the St. Louis Blues to a 2-1 win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at Scottrade Center on Sunday.

Game 2 is in St. Louis on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

David Backes scored a power-play goal for St. Louis, which is 4-4 at home in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We haven't played a team like this," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The other two series [against the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars] were similar. This series, and this team that we're playing against, is completely different. This is no different than playing Los Angeles. They're a heavy, hard team, strong on the puck, a lot of wall battles. We haven't had a series like this.

"It took us two periods just to get close to the emotional level on the compete side to get going. We'll be a lot better in Game 2."

Video: SJS@STL, Gm1: Elliott denies Pavelski, dives on puck

Tomas Hertl scored his first goal in seven games for the Sharks, who lost their fourth straight on the road in the postseason. Martin Jones made 21 saves.

"I think we were a little tentative to start the game," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. "I thought the first period was a little feeling out. We talked between the first and second, started to play our game in the second period and really I thought in the second period ... the tragedy of the second period was we spent the whole period in their end and lost the period 1-0. That was basically the game."

The Sharks outshot the Blues 16-5 in the second, but Lehtera put the St. Louis ahead 2-1 at 9:15 after picking off a Brent Burns pass in the neutral zone, skating in and taking a slap shot from the top of the left circle that beat Jones.

"I just got the puck, then I closed my eyes and shot it," Lehtera said. "That's about it. ... We just kind of keep it simple."

Video: SJS@STL, Gm1: Lehtera picks off pass, lights the lamp

Jones was frustrated a shot he felt he should have saved decided the game.

"Not much to it, just found a hole ... it [stinks] that it decided the game, but nothing really to panic over," Jones said. "I'll make that save next time."
 
Elliott made his best save of the second period on Joe Pavelski's one-timer from the slot off a Joe Thornton pass at 10:46.

"He's obviously a good player, a guy that leads their team" Elliott said of Pavelski. "It's really nothing more than just trying to stop every puck. It's not who's shooting it that really matters. It's trying to get in the way.

"When a guy like Jori goes down and gets you the lead, you just want to keep it, limit their chances they have, try to cover some pucks and let the guys do the rest. You don't really think about who's shooting it."

Video: SJS@STL, Gm1: Backes opens the scoring late in 1st

The Blues caught a break with 1:14 left in the second when a quick whistle negated a Sharks goal that would have tied it 2-2. Melker Karlsson's dump-in was blown dead after Elliott appeared to control the puck, but the Blues goalie never had it and kicked it into his net.

"The whistle blows and everyone stops," Backes said. "[Elliott] just keeps momentum to where that loose puck is. Three guys notice it, but the whistle's already blown."

St. Louis forward Patrik Berglund thought he opened the scoring at 11:35 of the first period when he tipped Jay Bouwmeester's shot and it was inadvertently put in by San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The goal was waved off, though, because Berglund made incidental contact with Jones. The Blues challenged the call on the ice, but it was confirmed by video review.

"Well, it was varying information, so it seemed like the right thing to do," Hitchcock said of the challenge. "When I looked at [Berglund], I saw [Berglund] absorb the puck and he's looking back on it and he might have been a little deep."

Video: SJS@STL, Gm1: Vlasic draws iron, Elliott covers puck

Backes, who had a game-high 11 hits in 18:33 of ice time, put St. Louis ahead 1-0 when he tipped Kevin Shattenkirk's shot from the point past Jones at 15:04 of the first.

"One thing I never have to worry about is [Backes] being in front of the net when I shoot it," Shattenkirk said. "For me to get that shot off, have it deflect before it gets to him and him still get a piece of it is amazing. That's where he's so valuable."

Hertl tied it 1-1 34 seconds after Backes scored. Pavelski initially redirected Burns' shot from the right point, then the puck hit off Hertl's right skate and got past Elliott.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm1: Pavelski's tip goes in off Hertl

Jones' best save came with a little less than 12 minutes remaining when he denied Paul Stastny in the slot off a slick feed from Robby Fabbri.

The Blues penalty kill was 3-for-3. The Sharks were 13-for-42 (30.9 percent) on the power play coming into the series.

"Our special teams were excellent," Hitchcock said. "Our [power play] was excellent and our [penalty kill] was even better. They were both good. They were the reason for the victory."

Video: Elliott makes 32 saves, Blues beat Sharks in Game 1

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