PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinal; Sharks lead 2-1.
The St. Louis Blues didn’t make a big move at the trade deadline. It turns out they didn’t need to because they had struck gold five days earlier.
Sillinger, acquired March 4 from Phoenix and playing for his 10th team to tie an NHL record, seemed to be a low-key pickup at the time. But he provided an immediate boost for a team that qualified for the playoffs in the last game of the regular season, getting four goals and five assists in 16 games.
On Monday, he almost singlehandedly got his new team back into its playoff series. Sillinger, who has just 166 goals in 829 career games, recorded his first three-goal game as the Blues defeated the Sharks 4-1 to avoid falling into an 0-3 hole.
“My little boys told me they wanted me to score a hat trick and my wife laughed,” Sillinger said. “She goes, ‘If he ever gets a hat trick we’ll fill the house with balloons.’
“We’ll be filling the house with balloons when I get back and see them in Phoenix, and hopefully it won’t be for a while.”
Known more for his faceoff prowess than his scoring, the 32-year-old center won 56 percent of his draws this season and is one of the Blues’ top penalty killers, as the Sharks found out in the final minute when he completed his career night with a short-handed empty-net tally.
The four-goal outburst was a far cry from what the Blues’ had mustered in the first two games. Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov set a franchise record with nine regular-season shutouts and nearly had two in the first two games of the series, stopping 52 of 53 shots in 1-0 and 3-1 victories.
But the Blues were able to get bodies in front of the Russian goalie on Monday, including Dallas Drake’s eventual game-winner off a deflection late in the second period.
“They’ve been working pretty hard and you have to give them credit,” Nabokov said. “They got two breaks but they deserved those breaks.”
The Blues will again try to play a more disciplined game. After handing the Sharks 13 power plays in the Game 2 loss, the Blues took just one minor penalty through the first two periods on Monday.
“Obviously, we needed to initiate and not retaliate,” Sillinger said. “We did that tonight. We stuck to our game plan, we didn’t get frustrated and we’re right back in the series.”
Patrick Marleau, who had three goals in Game 2, including two on the power play, was limited to just three shots on Monday.
“It was kind of funny to read that the series was over,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “We won two home games and now they’ve come back. Now they’ll have something to think about tonight and come better prepared tomorrow.”
The teams have combined to go 2-for-36 on the power play, with the Blues 0-for-15.
Game 5 is Thursday at San Jose.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Sharks - 104 points; 2nd seed. Blues - 91 points; 7th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Marleau, 3 goals; Vincent Damphousse, 3 assists; Marleau and Damphousse, 3 points; Niko Dimitrakos, 6 PIM. Blues - Sillinger, 3 goals and 3 points; five with 1 assist; Chris Pronger, 12 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Sharks - Power play: 9.5 percent (2 for 21). Penalty killing: 100 percent (15 for 15). Blues - Power play: 0.0 percent (0 for 15). Penalty killing: 90.4 percent (19 for 21).