ST. LOUIS (AP)—After shining in defeat, Alexander Korolyuk helped the San Jose Sharks bounce back and regain control of their first-round series.
Korolyuk, a 19-goal scorer in the regular season and one of the Sharks’ most dangerous threats in the playoffs, got his first two goals of the postseason in a 4-3 victory Tuesday night that put the St. Louis Blues on the brink of elimination.
“The guy who was our best player last night, Alexander Korolyuk, had another outstanding game,” coach Ron Wilson said. “It’s just kind of a message to the rest of the team that if you do the little things well and play like a warrior, you’ll end up on top.”
Among Korolyuk’s Game 3 contributions was a first-period hip check that knocked Blues forward Ryan Johnson out of the rest of that game and Game 4, as well. Korolyuk played some on the first line toward the end of Game 3.
Unsung Scott Thornton also got his first two goals for San Jose, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. The Sharks have a 3-1 series lead and can close it out in Game 5 Thursday night at home.
“A lot of guys had bounce-back games who might have been surprised by the intensity of a real playoff game,” Wilson said. “They came up spades tonight.”
After losing the first two games, the Blues had a strong showing in Game 3, outshooting the Sharks 25-8 in the first two periods of a 4-1 victory. The Sharks regained control in the second period of Game 4, spending most of the 20 minutes in the Blues’ end and outshooting them 12-5 while scoring twice to snap a 1-1 tie.
“It was a frustrating period,” Blues forward Doug Weight said. “It was there to be win. A couple of lapses and we paid for them.”
Weight, Mike Danton and Pavol Demitra scored for the Blues, who have rallied from a 3-1 series deficit only twice in 12 tries in franchise history—the last time in 1999. In the third period of Game 4, the Blues got a little practice for what lies ahead, twice scoring with a two-goal deficit before falling short.
“That was our best period,” coach Mike Kitchen said. “We would have liked to have started the game that way.”
The Blues know it can be done because they blew a 3-1 lead in the first round against the Canucks last spring.
Ineffectiveness on the power play helped put them in their hole. The Sharks’ penalty killers made it difficult for the Blues to even set up with the man advantage, running their streak to 18 straight stops before Weight’s power-play goal with 4:53 left, four seconds after Kyle McLaren went off for interference. That cut San Jose’s lead to 4-3.
“Our special teams have done the job all year and we have to continue to do it,” center Mike Ricci said. “Our power play was huge tonight and the PKs were pretty tough also.”
The Blues trailed 3-1 after two periods and cut the deficit to one in the opening minute of the third. Demitra, a 23-goal scorer in the regular season, converted the second of two swipes at the puck on a rebound for his first of the playoffs.
“Mel’s opportunity summed it up,” Weight said. “It was a great opportunity and it didn’t pay off. It was a big turning point.”
Nabokov knew he’d caught a big break.
“I had no idea where it hit me,” Nabokov said. “I felt something but I didn’t know if it was somebody’s stick.”
Korolyuk’s second goal came on a power play and restored the two-goal gap. Korolyuk, who had 19 goals in the regular season, roofed a rebound shot past Chris Osgood at 11:19.
Thornton was scoreless in the first three games of the series and had only six goals, a career high, and 21 points in the regular season. He also had zero career playoff goals in 22 games before beating Osgood in the first and second periods.
He got the game’s first goal off Ricci’s setup from the sideboards in the first period, scoring on a one-timer. He also broke a 1-1 tie on a tip-in early in the second period after Osgood’s save of a high drive by Jonathan Cheechoo left the puck sitting in the crease.
Danton’s first playoff goal had tied it midway through the first period, capitalizing on a nice move in the slot that paralyzed Vincent Damphousse.
Korolyuk’s first goal, on a deflection of McLaren’s point shot, gave theSharks a 3-1 lead midway in the second period.
Sharks C Alyn McCauley missed his third straight game with an apparent shoulder injury. … The Sharks had lost eight of their last 12 road playoff games before beating the Blues. … It was Danton’s first goal since Feb. 10, ending a 17-game drought; during his time between scoring he also missed eightgames with a shoulder injury and was a healthy scratch in five others.