SAN JOSE (AP) — All that talk of cheap shots, sucker punches, cracked helmets and broken noses stayed behind in St. Louis.
The San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues know there is far too much at stake in their first-round playoff series to worry about settling scores when the teams resume play in Game 3 on t night with the series tied at a game apiece.
“This time of year there’s only one payback, win the hockey game,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Sunday. “That’s the only payback. There’s no retribution other than play to win. Whistle to whistle. The first team that figures out whistle to whistle in any of these rounds going on right now is probably going to be the winner of each of the series that goes on.”
There was plenty of action after the whistle in St. Louis’ 3-0 win in Game 2 that tied the series. There was a second-period fight between the usually peaceful Joe Pavelski of San Jose and Kris Russell of St. Louis and a scrum between Dan Boyle and Alexander Steen late in the third.
The game ended with sticks and gloves all over the ice as St. Louis’ Vladimir Sobotka broke San Jose forward Dominic Moore’s nose in a fight with what Sharks coach Todd McLellan called a “sucker punch” and Blues defenseman Roman Polak pummeled Justin Braun in another fight.
“That’s what happens in these series. You go into the series not liking each other and you come out hating each other,” Russell said. “It’s going to pick up. The tempo is going to pick up. Physical play is going to pick up. We know that and we’re ready for it. We just want to make sure we’re focused on our game plan and what we’re going to do.”
The Blues had plenty that they were steamed about, most notably TJ Galiardi’s hit that cracked Andy McDonald’s helmet and an elbow to Scott Nichol’s head by defenseman Brent Burns.
Galiardi’s hit was particularly galling to the Blues in part because McDonald has a long history of concussions and missed 51 games this season with one. Galiardi maintained he did nothing wrong despite being handed a minor charging penalty.
“I’m just bigger than him. It doesn’t mean that I elbowed him,” Galiardi said. “I’m going to finish my check on anybody. ... Just because a guy has had a concussion doesn’t mean I’m not going to hit them. A clean hit is a clean hit. If he wants to call it dirty he can call it whatever he wants.”
Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s chief disciplinarian, declined to hand out any suspensions for the infractions and both teams echoed Hitchcock in that the hostilities were “yesterday’s news.”
“I think both teams want to win more than they want to get payback so to speak,” Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. “Winning is more important than anything right now. We’ll see what happens. I’d like to think it’s going to be a hard, physical game. That’s what I think.”
While both coaches talked about possible lineup changes for Game 3, one certain change will be in the starter in goal for the Blues. Jaroslav Halak has been ruled out of Monday night’s game with a lower-body injury after being knocked out of Saturday’s game in the second period in a collision with teammate Barret Jackman.
Halak, who stopped 43 of 46 shots in one-plus game, will be replaced by Brian Elliott, who made 17 saves in relief in Game 2. There figures to be little, if any, dropoff with the change as the Blues regularly rotated the two goaltenders on the way to setting a record by allowing just 155 goals in an 82-game season.
Elliott led the league with a 1.56 goals-against average and shut out the Sharks once in the regular season.
“That’s kind of the cornerstone of our team,” Russell said. “Both those guys have been outstanding all year. They play hard, they’re competitive. When they’re playing they are usually at their best. It’s tough to see a guy like Halak get hurt like that. It’s great when you see Ells come in and step in and play such a huge role in that game.”
The Sharks top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Pavelski will try to get on the scoreboard for the first time this series against Elliott. The high-powered trip generated plenty of chances early in Game 2 but have not managed a goal all series and looked out of sorts on the power play.
San Jose generated few chances on four power-play chances, including 15 seconds of a two-man advantage.
“Where their polish has to come a little better or a little more is on the power play,” McLellan said. “If they’re going to take some penalties, undisciplined penalties, we have to make them pay for it. Last night we weren’t as good as we were in Game 1. We were a little disjointed, so we’ll look at fixing that.”