ST. LOUIS --
Marc-Edouard Vlasic does not have Asian tattoos, long hair and an even longer beard. He does not lead defensemen with six goals and 19 points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He is not his San Jose Sharks teammate, Brent Burns.
But quietly he is elite in his own right, a workhorse who plays against top opponents and helps give Burns the freedom to do what he does, and he was integral to the Sharks' 6-3 victory against the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Monday.
He had a goal and a primary assist. He had four shots and nine shot attempts. He had a takeaway and four blocked shots. He did it all in 24:49 of ice time, the most among San Jose skaters.
"It's not easy playing against their top players," Vlasic said. "My job is to try to shut down the best players on the other team. It's something I pride myself on. Every night, that's what I'm relied on to do. Most of the time the other guys will get credit for scoring the big goals or making the big play, but that's the way I am, is to be steady and shut down the top players. I've got to keep doing that."
This was a rare time Vlasic got to score and draw attention to himself, and he still almost didn't get credit for it.
After an offensive zone faceoff early in the first period, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski skated back for the puck and stopped it from going out across the blue line. It looked like he was going to pass it ahead to defenseman Justin Braun at the right point, but he did a 180-degree whirl and passed it to Vlasic at the left point. Vlasic fired. The puck went into the net, giving the Sharks a 1-0 lead in a series in which the team that has scored first has won every game.
Forward Tomas Hertl, who was standing in front of the net, initially got credit for the goal. He got to hear his name announced at Scottrade Center. It wasn't until later, after officials reviewed the replay and saw that Vlasic's shot had gone in without being deflected, that they changed the scoresheet and awarded Vlasic his first goal of the playoffs.
Vlasic set up the Sharks' second goal in the second period. Again, he fired from the left point and beat goaltender Jake Allen. But this time his shot hit the left post and bounced into the crease, where forward Joel Ward tapped it into the net and tied the game 2-2. Vlasic earned his ninth assist of the playoffs.
Asked about Pavelski in the postgame press conference, Ward brought up Vlasic too. Pavelski scored two big goals, including the winner, but both players deserved praise.
"I think the word that sticks out is 'consistency,'" said Ward, who signed with the Sharks as a free agent last summer. "These two guys, [Pavelski], [Vlasic] on the back end, have been strong. I didn't know much about both of them coming here. To see them day to day, what they do in practices, how hard they work, it's been pretty special to watch."