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By The Sports Xchange April 17, 2012 3:49 AM
San Jose Sharks struggled on the penalty kill all season, and their inability to deny power-play goals is killing them in the playoffs as well.SAN JOSE -- The
The St. Louis Blues struck on their first three man-advantage chances on Monday night to post a 4-3 victory at HP Pavilion and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series. "We're just doing the things we've been working on all year," Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "We don't want to stray away from it. Shots at the net are always a good thing, and a couple found their way in." The Blues, who have won consecutive games by a combined score of 7-3 after dropping the opener in overtime, look to take a commanding lead over the seventh-seeded Sharks on Thursday when Game 4 is played in San Jose. "This isn't taking anything away from the win, but we can play a lot better than we did tonight," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The next game we're going to play better." Patrik Berglund, Jason Arnott and Alex Steen scored power-play goals, while Andy McDonald struck at even strength and added two assists. Colaiacovo contributed three assists for a Blues team that has won six of seven against San Jose counting regular-season meetings. The Sharks ranked last in the league in killing penalties on home ice (73.3 percent) and were 29th overall (76.9 percent), ahead of only the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. San Jose has surrendered five goals in 13 short-handed situations in the first three games of the series. "There's no doubt about it, we have to look at it and fix it," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of the struggling penalty kill. "We're going to do what we do and do it better." St. Louis gained a comfortable lead 59 seconds into the third period when Steen scored his first goal of the series, a rebound power-play strike. San Jose, which went 1-for-4 on the power play, failed on two man-advantage chances in the third period. "Our power play wasn't very sharp, and at this time of the year, it has to be," McLellan said. Colin White beat Blues goalie Brian Elliott from the top of the right circle at 16:58, and Logan Couture struck for an extra-attacker tally with 16.8 seconds remaining to make the final appear close in a game St. Louis owned. The Blues took control with two goals in the middle period. McDonald scored his second goal of the series 61 seconds into the period. He put the second rebound past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, who couldn't freeze Colaiacovo's original shot from the point. St. Louis opened a two-goal margin just past the midway point of the period when it struck on the power play for the second time in as many tries. Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray put his team in a short-handed situation by interfering with Blues fourth-line forward Scott Nichol. Just 38 seconds into the power play, Arnott one-timed a cross-ice feed from McDonald past Niemi for a 3-1 lead at 10:06. "On the power play, we're playing simple, we're getting to a lot of pucks and supporting each other," Berglund said. "We get momentum from it, and obviously we're really happy we can get three from it tonight." The teams traded power-play goals in a first period in which St. Louis outshot San Jose 14-9. The Blues struck first with San Jose's Tommy Wingels in the box for high-sticking St. Louis forward Alex Pietrangelo. Thirty-one seconds into the man-advantage, Berglund scored his third goal of the series with a backhand put-back into the empty net at 14:31. The hosts gained the equalizer just more than two minutes later after St. Louis' Roman Polak was sent off for a cross check of Joe Thornton. San Jose defenseman Brent Burns scored his first career playoff goal with a mini-breakaway at 16:45. "We all know what kind of team they are, they're a team that's built for this time of the year," Colaiacovo said of the Sharks. "We want to keep them on the outside, limit their shots and limit their chances. Our penalty kill has been huge for us." NOTES: The ex-Shark Nichol displayed a sense of humor when asked about taking an elbow to the head from Burns during Saturday's Game 2. "My head is still attached to my shoulders, so no problem," Nichol said. ... Elliott started in goal for St. Louis in Game 3 as teammate Jaroslav Halak remained sidelined with an undisclosed lower-body injury suffered when he collided with teammate Barret Jackman during the second period of Game 2. "We're lucky because we've been in a two-man rotation since Day 1 here," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "You don't expect something like this to happen. But it does, and we're lucky to be in this situation." Jake Allen dressed as the Blues' backup goalie. ... Veteran defenseman White replaced Jason Demers in San Jose's one lineup change. Jim Vandermeer, Brad Winchester, Michal Handzus and Benn Ferriero were healthy scratches for the Sharks, while Kent Huskins, Ian Cole, Jaden Schwartz, Chris Porter, Matt D'Agostini and Ryan Reaves did not dress for the Blues.