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Special Teams Playing Key Role For Sharks

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks went 0-for-3 on the power play and killed one of two penalties in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center on Sunday.

The Sharks lost, 2-1.

In Game 2 on Tuesday, the Sharks went 2-for-5 on the power play and killed all six penalties.

They won, 4-0.

Special teams have been crucial for the Sharks throughout their deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that likely won't change in Game 3 against St. Louis at SAP Center on Thursday (6 p.m. PT; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"This is a one-goal league," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Wednesday, shortly after the Sharks arrived home from St. Louis. "Most games are decided by a goal. I think there's a saying amongst coaches, 'If we can get to three goals in a game, we have a good chance to win.' The numbers bear that out.

"To score three even-strength goals in a night is really tough. So I think you have to have a good power play in order to win in this league. Ours definitely helps us, but it's not the only element of our game."

San Jose had eight power play goals and allowed three in their seven-game victory against the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Second Round. The Sharks had a 5-3 power play edge in their 4-1 series win against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round.

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns scored two power-play goals in Game 2 against St. Louis, and the penalty kill was 6-for-6.

"Special teams was big," Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. "Our penalty kill created a lot of momentum for us. The power play got two goals, which we needed."

The Sharks took a 1-0 lead on forward Tommy Wingels' even-strength goal 2:07 into the game. Burns scored power-play goals at 7:04 of the second period and 11:58 of the third. Forward Dainius Zubrus scored into an empty net with 19 seconds remaining.

The Sharks were leading 2-0 when they killed a four-minute double-minor early in the third period after Patrick Marleau received four minutes for high sticking.

DeBoer credited assistant coach Bob Boughner for his work with San Jose's penalty killers, but also pointed to "execution and energy" as key factors.

"The fact that in order to have that late in the game, considering the long road we've been on, we had multiple participants," DeBoer said. "I think we used eight forwards through that penalty kill. It goes hand-in-hand with the other systems we have. We have to be a four-line team because we want to put pressure on the other team. You can't do that if you're tired."

Twelve Sharks spent at least two minutes killing penalties in Game 2; Vlasic logged a team-high 5:53 on the penalty kill, and defenseman Justin Braun had 5:46. Among forwards, Melker Karlsson (3:54) and Nick Spaling (3:08) spent the most time on the PK.

Burns, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski have four power-play goals in the playoffs. Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau have one apiece.

The Sharks did not score a power-play goal in three of their five playoff losses. They've had at least one power-play goal in eight of their nine wins.

"It's one of those things where you want that clicking for you," Marleau said of the power play. "It helps. It helps everything. You're playing hard, playing hard 5-on-5. When you get that opportunity, you try and make the most of it.

"I think that's what you're looking to do with your special team both ways, is create momentum."

by Eric Gilmore / NHL.com Correspondent

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