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Conference Final

Sharks look to put wins together against Blues in Western Final

San Jose striving for consecutive victories, consistency to continue Cup run

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- The San Jose Sharks would like to break out of the win-one, lose-one pattern they've been in since the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs began.

The Sharks lead the St. Louis Blues 2-1 in the best-of-7 Western Conference Final, having won Games 1 and 3. Game 4 is at Enterprise Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS).

In the Western Conference Second Round, they alternated victories with the Colorado Avalanche, winning Games 1, 3, 5 and 7 to advance.

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Blues series coverage]

 

Through three games of the conference final, San Jose was victorious in Games 1 and 3.

"You know, the obvious answer is parity and how evenly matched, I think, the teams are," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Thursday. "In every series that we've played so far, I've felt there was very little difference, talent level, on-ice, between the two teams.

"And I think that desperation level that decides games every night, it's hard to replicate that, unless you're facing going down by two or facing an elimination game. We're all trying to do that, but it's a fine line and I think it's just evenly matched teams."

The Sharks have won consecutive games in the playoffs. After falling behind 3-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round, they won three straight to advance.

They had a fourth straight win, defeating the Avalanche 5-2 in Game 1 of the second round. San Jose also won two straight with a 3-2 victory against the Avalanche in Game 7 and a 6-3 win against the Blues in Game 1.

"I wish I knew the answer," said Sharks center Logan Couture, whose game-tying goal at 18:59 of the third period in Game 3 was his 14th goal of the playoffs. "We've struggled to be consistent. We've struggled to play our game at times. I thought last night wasn't our best effort. I thought they played better than us and carried the play for a lot of that game. Without [goalie Martin Jones] in the third period, we don't have a chance to win. We got bailed out by some big-time saves and some lucky breaks at the end."

Video: Logan Couture ties Sharks playoff goal record

A vigorous response by the team that lost the most recent game is the most natural reaction in the playoffs. Teams that go far in the postseason find ways to neutralize that in their opponents, largely with drive and confidence, Sharks forward Timo Meier said.

"Every time you lose, you want to bounce back," Meier said. "Every team has that mentality, too. The team that lost the game wants to come back hard, they're going to play desperate. We can't get into that rhythm where we win one, lose one. We've got to be winning some games in a row. When we win a game, we've got to come out the next game even harder and show our desperation level is higher."

While the Sharks were focusing on their preparation for Game 4, they dismissed the idea they've been lucky to get this far in the postseason.

In their 5-4 victory in Game 3, defenseman Erik Karlsson's game-winner at 5:23 of overtime followed an apparent hand pass by Meier to forward Gustav Nyquist. The goal stood, however, because the play was not reviewable.

"It irks me when you use words like [lucky] because this team has played four or five elimination games; not moments, games," DeBoer said. "Twelve to 15 periods of elimination hockey against Vegas, against Colorado in Game 7, so I think it's a ridiculous statement."

DeBoer said the game and all its decisions happen fast.

"It's easy when we sit there on the bench or you guys look at a TV monitor and criticize and hold people accountable for errors that happen in milliseconds," he said. "You know what? We've found a way. And we've faced a lot of adversity. We've had calls go against us and we've had calls go for us, and we're still standing. For anybody to minimize that I think is disrespectful to our group and what we've done."

Video: SJS@STL, Gm3: DeBoer on Thornton, Jones, Game 3

DeBoer said the Sharks don't need the criticism as any potential motivation for games ahead.

"We're two wins away from playing for the Stanley Cup," he said. "We have all the motivation we need."

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