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Sharks can't overcome slow start in Game 4 loss

Miss chance to extend Western Final lead against Blues, continuing playoff trend

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- The San Jose Sharks are taking the long way through the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

With a chance to go ahead 3-1 in the Western Conference Final, the Sharks lost to the St. Louis Blues 2-1 in Game 4 at Enterprise Center on Friday. The best-of-7 series is tied with Game 5 at SAP Center in San Jose on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN).

In the second round and conference final, the Sharks have not won back-to-back games within a series, but neither have they lost back-to-back games.

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Blues series coverage]

 

But a lost opportunity was not how the Sharks saw Game 4.

"You're in the Western Conference final, 2-2, against a really good team," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I feel pretty good. We've got home-ice advantage."

Even if they haven't done anything easily, the Sharks have been resilient.

They trailed 3-1 in the Western Conference First Round against the Vegas Golden Knights but survived three elimination games to win the series in seven games.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm4: DeBoer on team's performance in Game 4

In the second round against the Colorado Avalanche, San Jose never trailed in the series but needed seven games to advance. That included a lost opportunity to go ahead 3-1 and later, to finish the series in six games.

"Yeah, you know, we haven't had a short one yet, so now it's a three-game series and we've just got to take care of business at home," defenseman Justin Braun said.

The Sharks were coming off an emotional, come-from-behind victory in Game 3 here, tying the game with 1:01 left in regulation then winning it at 5:23 of overtime with a goal from defenseman Erik Karlsson.

But with their chance to extend their lead in the series, the Sharks took almost a period to get going. By that time, the Blues had the two goals they would need.

"It didn't really cross my mind," captain Joe Pavelski said, asked if he was worried about any potential emotional hangover from Game 3. "There's a lot of emotion throughout the playoffs. We're in the conference final. We've got overtime wins. We've had Game 7s. We've had emotional games for sure.

"You just lace 'em back up for the next game and get ready to go and you compete. We understand momentum swings get reset each night and you've got to go and earn it. They came out with a good start."

Video: Erik Karlsson battles through his groin injury

Braun said great starts have not been automatic.

"It's something we've kind of had a problem with this playoffs so far," Braun said. "It's been awhile since that's happened, but we've got to come out with a better start."

The Blues scored on the first shift of the game, a shot from Ivan Barbashev that went off the stick of San Jose forward Gustav Nyquist at 35 seconds.

"That's the goal every night to be ready to go right at the drop of the puck," Braun said. "They were, we weren't. They were more desperate at the start and we got what we deserved."

Tyler Bozak was credited with a power-play goal to make it 2-0 at 17:53 of the first period when Braun kicked the puck into his own net with his right skate.

From that point, the Sharks were far more engaged and had ample opportunities, only to be stymied by Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who made 29 saves.

"Maybe the best I've felt about our game in the series so far even though we lost," DeBoer said. "We put two goals in our own net off our own guys. Didn't get the start we wanted, got on our heels the first shift, took a couple penalties, other than that…and then not finding a way to get a couple more goals I thought we did a lot of good stuff."

Video: Barbashev scores early, Blues win Game 4

San Jose had several shifts over the final two periods with extended offensive-zone pressure. Brent Burns was Involved in much of that. He finished with two shots on goal, seven of his shots blocked and seven shots that missed. One of those was a shot off the left post behind Binnington late in the second period.

"I think when you're down, you get a little looser," Burns said. "You get more aggressive. I think it's hard to do that from the onset because it's a little riskier. I think it's a natural flow of the game. When a team's up, the other team comes back a little bit because they're just throwing everything [at it] and it doesn't matter.

"It was a tough first, obviously. I think we can get better ... we're going to have to have better. It's a great team over there. We're still looking for a solid 60 [minutes], I think."

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