SAN JOSE -- The St. Louis Blues showed Thursday night that they could win with more than a potent power play.
St. Louis showed off its superior special teams by turning to the penalty kill to spark a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks, who are now on the verge of playoff elimination.
The Blues, looking to win a Stanley Cup playoff series for the first time since 2002, lead the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals 3-1. The series moves to the Gateway City for a potential clincher in Game 5 on Saturday.
Series leading scorer Andy McDonald punched home a power-play goal to give the visitors a two-goal edge 12 minutes into the final period after the Blues nursed a 1-0 lead since early in the opening period.
San Jose's Joe Thornton snapped Brian Elliott's bid for a shutout with a goal at 18:53 on the Sharks' 25th and final shot.
The story of the night, however, was St. Louis' efficient penalty kill, which thwarted the desperate Sharks on all four man-advantage chances.
San Jose saw each of its final two power plays cut short by penalties. One minute and 18 seconds after Patrick Marleau was sent off for interfering with Blues defenseman Kris Russell, McDonald scored his third goal of the series. Sharks goalie Antti Niemi had vacated his crease while making a save on Patrik Berglund's tip of a point shot by David Perron.
St. Louis' first-period goal stood as the only score of the opening 40 minutes. The Blues' ability to stymie the Sharks' offense was key, especially in the middle 20 minutes, when San Jose enjoyed a couple of flurries of extended zone time and two power plays.
Only 2-for-11 on the power play in the first three games, San Jose produced six shots during 5:23 of man-advantage time during the first two periods, but Elliott stood tall. He denied Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture in close and watched as a Thornton cross-ice feed went under the stick of Marleau early in San Jose's second power play.
Pavelski had a shot and Thornton a follow at 15:20 during even strength, and Elliott stopped Couture on the doorstep moments later to enable the Blues would nurse their one-goal edge into the final period.
The Sharks were supposed to be the desperate team at the outset, but the Blues owned the first 20 minutes, scoring the period's only goal and dictating the play throughout.
B.J. Crombeen beat Niemi with a shot from between the circles at 7:12 to account for the only goal of the opening period. Berglund went behind the San Jose net to elude Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and fed Crombeen for his first goal of the series.
The goal, which slipped between Niemi's catching glove and left pad, capped a long cycle by St. Louis.
The Sharks were awarded the only power play of the opening 20 minutes when Kevin Shattenkirk held San Jose fourth-line forward Tommy Wingels. The Sharks put four shots on goal but could not penetrate Elliott for the equalizer.
The teams traded great scoring chances within seconds less than five minutes after the opening faceoff. Series leading scorer Andy McDonald was denied by Niemi's quick lateral movement on a backdoor shot, and Elliott stopped Couture at the other end moments later.
NOTES: Scoreless in the first three games of the series, Marleau found himself off the first line, moving from left wing to centering the No. 2 unit. Coach Todd McLellan's thinking was to better utilize Marleau's size and speed in the middle of the ice. Marleau approved of the move. "You're moving a lot more as opposed to standing at the boards," he said. "I like it that way. You definitely feel like you're in the play the whole time." ... The last time St. Louis was up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series was 2003 vs. Vancouver, but the Blues lost in seven games. The Blues have an all-time best-of-seven record of 7-7 when taking two of the first three games. ... Forwards Michal Handzus and Brad Winchester replaced Dominic Moore and TJ Galiardi in the San Jose lineup. ... The Blues dressed the same lineup that was a winner in Game 3. Jake Allen continues to back up Elliott, as Jaroslav Halak remains sidelined due to an ankle injury.