With the Eastern Conference finals already underway, the puck dropped out West as the Sharks and Blues kicked off their conference final.
San Jose played host for the series opener and the hometown Sharks came away with the victory in a strong Game 1 performance. Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc all got on the board in the Sharks' 6-3 win, with Couture and Meier scoring twice in the victory.
It was a chippy, physical Game 1 that certainly wasn't perfect for either team, but it was an entertaining start to what might be a grueling, long series to find a Western Conference representative in the Stanley Cup Final. Jordan Binnington and Martin Jones didn't have their best start to the series, but their defenses weren't exactly in tip-top shape in front of them either.
San Jose is looking to get over the hump and make the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2016, when they lost to the Penguins. The Blues haven't been to a Stanley Cup Final since 1970.
Stanley Cup Playoff games on NBC and NBCSN can be streamed via fuboTV (Try for free).
NHL Playoffs for Saturday, May 11
- Game 1: FINAL - Sharks 6, Blues 3 (SJ leads 1-0) [Box score]
St. Louis gives a scare
The Blues cut the lead to "dangerous" when the Blues caught the Sharks scrambling in their own zone and found Tyler Bozak wide open next to the net. Bozak slipped a shot past Jones. That goal made it 5-3 with seven minutes remaining in the period.
Ultimately, it wasn't enough as the Sharks hung on -- and added an empty netter -- for the victory in the series opener.
Things not going the Blues' way
It was a great second period for the Sharks, who have increased their lead to 5-2 heading into the final period of regulation. Kevin Labanc got the first goal of the middle frame when he was able to rip a shot through traffic and past Jordan Binnington about eight minutes into the period. The Blues once again found a quick answer when Ryan O'Reilly showcased some solid patience after Martin Jones gave up a juicy rebound.
But Timo Meier responded shortly after with what might be the goal of the playoffs so far. Logan Couture forced a turnover by poke checking Colton Parayko, and Meier took advantage by dangling through a Blues defender and pulling a Forsberg on Binnington. just ruthless.
Meier also added another goal later in the period with the help of some serious puck luck. After a teammate fired a puck off the boards, Meier smacked the redirect towards the middle of the ice and saw it bounce off a Blues defender's skate and deflect past Binnington for a pretty lucky goal.
Just a really frustrating period for the Blues.
Heavy first period in San Jose
It was a pretty eventful (and brutal) first period in San Jose to kick off this series. It's clear that the Blues are placing an emphasis on finishing checks and bringing a physical element to their game, and they're seeking out some of the Sharks' better players to bring the pain.
But it was Logan Couture who got the Sharks on the board first, scoring his 10th goal of these playoffs -- tops among all players. That goal is also his 26th postseason goal in the past five years, putting him ahead of Sidney Crosby for third-most in the NHL.
The Blues got an answer to that goal when Jaden Schwartz scored his ninth of the postseason. St. Louis will be looking to create traffic in front of Martin Jones in this series and they were able to position Joel Edmundson on the doorstep on Schwartz's tally.
However, San Jose answered the answer thanks to Joe Pavelski's hand-eye coordination. During a 5-on-3 power play for the Sharks, Pavelski was able to deflect his own shot out of mid-air -- not once, but twice -- and past Jordan Binnington to reclaim the lead for San Jose.
The home team takes a 2-1 lead into first intermission.