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Burns' hat trick powers Sharks past Blues

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- When San Jose forward Brent Burns arrived at SAP Center on Friday morning, a few hours before the Sharks played the St. Louis Blues, he wasn't sure what kind game to expect from himself.

Burns had practiced Thursday, but he followed his brief workout with a huge Thanksgiving dinner and hit the ice Friday for a rare matinee without the benefit of a morning skate.

"Today was a little weird," Burns said. "Thanksgiving yesterday. A lot of food and then no skate this morning. I had to sweat it out. We skated yesterday, but with the way I eat, I need more than one skate."

Well, maybe not.

Burns had his first career hat trick, lifting the Sharks to a 6-3 victory against the Blues in a battle of two Western Conference powers.

Burns scored twice in the first period when the Sharks built a 4-0 lead. Then one minute after the Blues closed to within 4-3 on Jaden Schwartz' 4-on-4 goal with 8:41 to play, Burns answered with a brilliant power-play goal.

Skating down the left boards, Burns cut sharply to his right and snapped a shot between two Blues and past goaltenderJaroslav Halak, with Joe Pavelski providing a screen.

"Just a black-out kind of a thing," Burns said of his goal. "Got in the zone. Quick shot. I don't really remember what happened."

Tomas Hertl added an empty-net goal for the Sharks at 19:14. Joe Thornton and Tommy Wingels each scored for San Jose during a four-goal first period.

Defenseman Ian Cole scored for the Blues in the second period, and third-period goals by David Backes and Schwartz made it a 4-3 game.

Burns scored two goals for the Minnesota Wild against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 6, 2010, but he had never scored more than one goal in a game since being traded to the Sharks before the 2011-12 season.

"He's so big and so strong and he has such a good shot," Thornton said of Burns. "He has so much fun out there and it's fun being part of it, part of his line. I just have a smile on my face most of the game because the stuff he does is amazing."

The Sharks (17-3-5) won their fourth straight game and snapped the Blues' five-game winning streak. San Jose also ended its five-game losing streak on home ice to the Blues (18-4-3), a stretch that included two defeats in a 4-1 first-round series loss in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Sharks beat the Blues 6-2 on Oct. 15 at St. Louis and scored six more times Friday, including four quick goals in the opening period.

"It looked like we needed to set a few more alarm clocks this morning," Backes said. "No matter what happened. we needed to have a better response. They punched us in the mouth in the first period. We gained some back in the second and third but it was a matter of too little, too late. If you give any good team a four-goal lead you're asking for a loss."

Antti Niemi made 21 saves for the Sharks, who improved to 4-0-0 on their five-game homestand. San Jose's Logan Couture tied his career high with three assists, all in the first period.

Blues backup goaltender Brian Elliott started the game and allowed four goals on 12 shots in the first period before giving way to Halak to start the second.

San Jose overwhelmed the Blues in the first period, outshooting them 12-2 and building a four-goal lead.

"We came ready to play at puck drop," Wingels said. "I think we kind of surprised them a bit. Any time you can get jump and get lead like that like that on a team, it's tough to battle back from. We knew going into the second period that their first period effort wasn't going to be the same as it was in the second. We fully expected them to rebound and they did. I think we saw a bit of a different game after those first 20 minutes."

Burns gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead 35 seconds into the game, taking a pass in the slot from Patrick Marleau and ripping a shot past Elliott. Couture, who fed a pass to Marleau, earned his first assist of the night. Thornton and Hertl, Burns' regular linemates, had yet to come off the bench in the Sharks first change, but he had no trouble adjusting to Couture and Marleau.

Thornton made it 2-0 at 3:01 with a power-play goal, snapping the Sharks' 0-for-14 skid with the man advantage. Couture blasted a shot from the left circle, and Pavelski tracked down the puck to the left of the crease. Pavelski made a no-look pass to Thornton in the right circle, and Thornton snapped a shot over Elliott's shoulder, inside the right post.

"We just looked real, real sharp at the start of the game," Thornton said. "You like to get one and then - bam! - you get two. To go up 4-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game, it's kind of unheard of but we were ready to go. We knew it was going to be a good test for us and I think we passed the test."

Burns struck again at 9:15 for his third goal in four games since coming off injured reserve. Burns took a cross-ice pass from Thornton in the right circle and buried a shot past Elliott, prompting St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock to take his timeout.

Just over two minutes later, Wingels scored on a breakaway, pounding a shot from the right circle that bounced off Elliott's glove and over the goal line at 11:27. Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester had turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and Wingels quickly headed the other way, racing along the right boards before scoring his eighth goal of the season and giving San Jose a 4-0 lead.

"Regardless of what time of the day it is or what holiday was yesterday, we have to come ready to play," Cole said. "It's ridiculous to give up four goals like that."

Cole cut San Jose's lead to 4-1 at 11:03 of the second period, taking a pass from Schwartz and scoring his first goal of the season. Backes took a behind-the-back pass from Derek Roy in the right circle and beat Niemi to the far side on the power play at 2:02 of the third, making it 4-2.

Schwartz scored at 11:19 to make it a one-goal game.

The Sharks and Blues played each other for the first time since Oct. 15, a San Jose win in St. Louis that was marred byMaxim Lapierre's illegal hit from behind on Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle. Lapierre sent Boyle head-first into the boards. Boyle was knocked out, left the ice at Scottrade Center on a stretcher and missed seven games with a concussion. Lapierre was suspended by the NHL for five games.

After the incident, Lapierre apologized to Boyle publicly and via text message; Boyle declined to answer his phone calls.

Lapierre was greeted by a few boos from Sharks fans whenever he touched the puck, and forward Mike Brown bumped him at a stoppage during the first period, but San Jose was more intent on scoring goals than exacting retribution.

"We were focused on winning a hockey game," Couture said. "There's no time in this conference right now to go out and worry about certain players and retribution and stuff like that. We're smart enough people in this room. We realize we need points. We went out there and played the game of hockey. We played it better than they did today and we got two points."

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