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Blues draw first blood on Sharks

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ST. LOUIS—Once again, Brian Elliott was the star of the show.

And his latest performance gave his St. Louis Blues’ teammates plenty of comfort knowing he had their back.

“When your goalie is your best player, it gives you a great chance of winning, and that was the case,” captain David Backes said after the Blues opened their first Western Conference final in 15 years with a tense 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks last night.

“It was that way for the first two rounds,” Backes added. “And nothing’s changed in Game 1 of the third round.”

Backes opened the scoring while Jori Lehtera had the go-ahead goal in the second period on a spinning shot that Martin Jones couldn’t handle.

“I just got the puck and closed my eyes and shot it, that’s about it,” Lehtera remarked.

“Just keep it simple.”

“Not much to it, just found a hole,” said Jones. “I’ll make that save next time.”

Tomas Hertl scored on a first-period deflection for the Sharks, who outshot St. Louis 32-23 but couldn’t quite solve Elliott.

Among those he frustrated was captain Joe Pavelski, who had seven shots and had perhaps the best chance in the third period on a one-timer near the midway mark.

Pavelski and Elliott were roommates at Wisconsin.

“I’m going to blame that one on the stick,” Pavelski said.

“No, I have to find a way to put that in regardless of what goes on,” he added.

“I thought it was going in.”

Blues’ coach Ken Hitchcock thought his team was fortunate to survive the last 2:29 after the Sharks pulled Jones.

“I thought we did a great job. We kept it in the zone,” Hitchcock said sarcastically.

“Are you kidding me? We couldn’t get it out.”

The Sharks were the best road team in the NHL during the regular season at 28-10-3 but now have dropped four-straight on the road in these playoffs, including all three in the second round against Nashville.

They had seven goals in three road losses to the Predators and were 0-for-3 on the power play, which had been a major plus.

San Jose had been converting on 33 percent of its power plays in the post-season.

“They were hot in the last series,” noted Blues’ defenceman Alex Pietrangelo.

“We stepped up to the challenge.’”

The Blues made good on their first chance with home-ice advantage in the playoffs, although they’re just 4-4 at the Scottrade Center heading into Game 2 tomorrow night.

Elliott was at his best—and got some luck—in the second period when the Blues were outshot 16-5, but got the lone goal when Lehtera scored unassisted.

The goalie benefited from a quick whistle with 1:14 left when he unsuccessfully tried to smother the puck on a long dump-in by Melker Karlsson.

It slowly slid between his pads and off his stick into the net—just after play had been ruled dead.

“The puck was spinning a lot and it probably just spun out,” Elliott reasoned.

“I haven’t really seen it yet so I don’t know.”

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