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Conference Final

Blues look to ace latest test in Game 4 against Sharks

Focused on putting tough loss behind them, evening conference final

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues are used to being tested this season. 

They were last in the NHL standings on Jan. 3 and appeared to be going nowhere.  

On Friday, they will play Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks at Enterprise Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS), trailing the best-of-7 series 2-1. 

The fact the Blues overcame such great odds the past four months to be one of two remaining teams in their conference is what coach Craig Berube was stressing to his players one day after their gut-wrenching 5-4 overtime loss in Game 3 on Wednesday.

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Blues series coverage]

 

St. Louis, which was 61 seconds from a win in regulation, lost in overtime when Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson scored following an apparent hand pass by teammate Timo Meier in the offensive zone. The play was not reviewable.

"It is hard, for sure," Berube said. "It's not easy to do. It's a test. That's how you look at it. It's a tough play, tough call, but it's just a test and we've been tested over and over throughout the season and the playoffs and I think we're pretty good at bouncing back. That's the way I look at it. It's a mental thing more than anything."

They passed that test in the regular season, going 30-10-5 since Jan. 3 to finish third in the Central Division. They then defeated the Winnipeg Jets in six games -- winning three games on the road -- in the Western Conference First Round and needed double overtime in Game 7 to defeat the Dallas Stars in the second round. 

What made the Game 3 loss extra painful is they scored four goals in the second period to rally from being down 2-0 and 3-1 to take a 4-3 lead late into the third period, only to see Sharks center Logan Couture tie the game with 1:01 remaining. The goal came after Blues forward Jayden Schwartz missed scoring into an empty net and St. Louis was whistled for icing on consecutive defensive zone face-offs.

Video: SJS@STL: Berube speaks on challenges in Game 3 loss

So as much as the overtime goal hurt, the Blues felt they let the game slip away long before that.

"We score four goals in a playoff game, we should win it," Berube said. "I think we can do some things better without the puck. Again, some of it is self-inflicted by us on the goals. We've got to clean that up a little bit."

Judging by their responses Thursday, the Blues have taken Berube's advice and moved on from the loss. 

"I think for us, it's done," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "There's no sense looking behind you. We've got a game tomorrow. I think what we learned from last night is we played the way we can. The second period was a perfect example of how we're fine in this series. That's our focus now. We're not too worried about yesterday."

Forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who has three points (one goal, two assists) in the past three games, agreed. 

"It's not going to change anyway," Tarasenko said. "We're down in the series, but we have a chance to tie it again … [It's] our job to prepare ourselves and I think the best way to prepare is to stay tight and focus on our game and not anything going [on] outside of the team."

Video: Jon Morosi and Darren Pang wrap up SJS-STL Game 3

St. Louis could be facing even more adversity with the potential absence of defenseman Vince Dunn, who is day to day with an upper-body injury. Dunn, who has seven points (two goals, five assists) in 16 postseason games and plays the point on the power play, was hit in the mouth by a shot from Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon in the first period of Game 3 and left the game bleeding.  

His absence could be just another obstacle among the many the Blues have faced this season, heading into what is as close to a must-win game as possible.

"It's a huge game," Berube said. "We're at home. Tie the series up and go back to San Jose."

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