SAN JOSE, Calif. — By the end of the game on Sunday, the San Jose Sharks had plenty of room to stretch out. In the closing minutes, there were seven skaters left on the bench when the puck was in play. There were almost as many in the dressing room.
Between injuries and ejections, San Jose was running out of players. Micheal Haley and Evander Kane had drawn 10-minute misconducts. Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Erik Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi were out because of injuries. Hertl and Karlsson didn’t playin the third period, Pavelski played 41 seconds and Donskoi 4:11.
The biggest gamble had been with Karlsson, who was banged up entering the game. He had missed some shifts at the end of the previous contest and looked to be in discomfort on the bench, and was a question mark for Sunday. After playing 7:29 in the first period, he played a little over three minutes in the second and wasn’t much of a factor.
“I mean, hindsight’s 20-20, you know?” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer asked. “We make those decisions based on reports we get form the player and medical (personnel), and the report was he felt he could play and get through the game. So, you know, it’s easy to sit here and say now, ‘Yeah, sure you have regrets.’”
Karlsson would seems questionable or doubtful for Game 6, on Tuesday in St. Louis.
The Sharks had issues with the hits that knocked Pavelski and Hertl out of the game (by Alex Pietrangelo and Ivan Barbashev, respectively); Donskoi was hit by a puck shot by teammate Justin Braun.
“An arguably five-minute major on Tommy Hertl that, if it’s called, maybe that’s a momentum-changing play right there,” DeBoer said. “But we come out of the first (period) down 1-0 and then Hertl can’t go, and you know, Karlsson can’t go, so we started taking on some water. (The Blues) took over in the second period and then, you know, when ‘Pav’ got hit high, we lost our composure in the third. Not our finest moment, but I understand where that emotion’s coming from with what he’s been through and we just have to regroup. We have to go in and win a game.”
Sharks center Logan Couture was hot happy.
“I saw the Hertl hit. Just watched the replay,” Couture said. “Yeah, that’s a tough one. But they had one in Game 3 on Braun and nothing happened, so they can do it again, right?”
“You don’t want to make excuses,” San Jose defenseman Brenden Dillon added. “But some pretty key guys that are going down, some offensive guys that when you’re playing from behind like that it’s tough to push the pace. We had a couple chances on the power play to kind of get some traction and some looks, but I think at the end of the day we need to kind of ramp up our level instead of go the other way.”
Jordan Binnington posted his first NHL postseason shutout on Sunday, stopping 21 shots. The shutout was the first for the Blues in the playoffs since Brian Elliott had one that went to overtime against Chicago in the first round in 2016, the most recent time the Blues went to conference final, and the ninth in the league this postseason.
Binnington has allowed just one goal over the past 120 minutes and after back-to-back one-goal games. This one gave him a breather.
“That’s a nice break,” he said. “We just had to close the door at the end. Tight games are a little exciting. You just gotta compete to the very end but it’s just nice to finish strong.”
Defenseman Niko Mikkola, who spent the season with San Antonio after being a healthy scratch on opening day when the Blues were low on defensemen, scored as Finland beat France 3-0 at the world championships in Slovakia. Finland leads Group A, which includes Canada and the United States.
• Alexey Toropchenko, the Blues’ fourth round draft pick in 2017, had a hat trick for Guelph in its opening game at the Memorial Cup, the Canadian junior hockey championship. Toropchenko had 13 goals and six assists in 24 games of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, though that was only sixth-best on the team. For perspective, teammate Nick Suzuki, the top pick of Vegas in the 2017 draft (13th overall) had 16 goals and 26 assists in the playoffs.
• Blues radio analyst Joe Vitale couldn’t make the trip, so forward Chris Thorburn filled in. Thorburn, by the way, played the least ice time of anyone in the NHL who got in a game this season — one minute, 52 seconds.