ST. LOUIS — Brian Elliott had another standout game in net, David Backes and Jori Lehtera had goals and the St. Louis Blues opened their first Western Conference final in 15 years with a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night.
Tomas Hertl scored on a first-period deflection for the Sharks, who outshot St. Louis 32-23 but couldn’t quite solve Elliott.
The Sharks were the best road team in the NHL in the regular season at 28-10-3, but have dropped four in a row on the road in these playoffs, including all three in the second round against Nashville. They had seven goals in three road losses to the Predators and were 0 for 5 on the power play, which had been a major plus. San Jose had been converting on 33 percent of its power plays in the postseason.
The Blues made good on their first chance with home ice advantage in the playoffs, although they’re just 4-4 at the Scottrade Center heading into Game 2 on Tuesday night.
Elliott was at his best — and got some luck — in the second period when the Blues were outshot 16-5, but got the lone goal when Lehtera scored unassisted. The goalie benefited from a quick whistle with 1:14 left when he unsuccessfully tried to smother the puck on a long dump-in by Melker Karlsson, and it slowly slid between his pads and off his stick into the net, just after play had been ruled dead.
Backes opened the scoring with a deflection and is tied with sharpshooter Vladimir Tarasenko for the team lead with seven goals in the playoffs. The team captain had 21 goals in the regular season.
Lehtera’s second of the playoffs came off an errant clearing attempt by Brent Burns for a 2-1 lead. He powered through on his shot after Chris Tierney got a piece of the stick.
Just 34 seconds elapsed between the opening goal by Backes and Hertl’s answering goal redirected a shot by Joe Pavelski with the puck bouncing past Elliott.
The Blues had just enough despite a third disallowed goal in the playoffs. Patrik Berglund’s deflection was waved off because of incidental contact with goalie Martin Jones, a call confirmed after video review.