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Instant analysis: Sharks at Blues, Game 1

Elliott the difference maker for Blues; Sharks trail in a series for first time this postseason

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at Scottrade Center on Sunday.

Jori Lehtera scored the winning goal 9:15 into the second period, and goaltender Brian Elliott made 31 saves for the Blues, who were outshot 32-23. St. Louis captain David Backes and San Jose forward Tomas Hertl scored in the first period.

What we learned: Elliott continues to be a difference-maker, coming up with big saves on a night when the Blues were not at their best. The Blues penalty killers were aggressive against the Sharks' power play, which had been converting at rate of 31.0 percent, best among the conference finalists. The Blues went after the puck carriers, kept them from setting up and held the Sharks 0-for-3. Both teams need to reduce their turnovers. Sharks defenseman Brent Burns has been brilliant in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he turned the puck over too often.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm1: Elliott denies the Sharks on a rush

What this means for the Sharks: They trail in a series for the first time in these playoffs. They took 2-0 leads in each of their first two series: on the road against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, at home against the Nashville Predators in the second round. They eliminated the Kings in five games and the Predators in seven.

What this means for the Blues: They keep home-ice advantage, not that home ice has been much of an advantage for them. They won at home for the first time in three games and the fourth time in eight games in these playoffs.

Key moment: Shortly after Sharks goaltender Martin Jones allowed a soft goal to Lehtera in the second period, Elliott made a spectacular save on Sharks captain Joe Pavelski to preserve a 2-1 lead for the Blues. Pavelski, who won an NCAA championship with Elliott at the University of Wisconsin in 2006, fired a one-timer from the left hash marks. Elliott got his right pad on the puck. The Sharks outshot the Blues in the second 16-5 but allowed the only goal of the period.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm1: Elliott robs Pavelski to preserve lead

Unsung player of the game: Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo played another of his high-minute, high-impact games. He played 25:24, including 4:16 on the penalty kill, both tops among St. Louis skaters. He had two takeaways and two blocked shots.

What's next: Game 2 is Tuesday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

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