Brian Elliott, Todd Bertuzzi

Red Wings come back, beat Blues in shootout

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The St. Louis Blues have done a lot to show that they’re not just the flavor of the month, but topping their big brothers from Detroit is a mountain they still need to climb. After winning the first two games of the season series, St. Louis lost four straight games against the Red Wings, including tonight’s 3-2 shootout thriller on NBC Sports Network.

A questionable Ryan Reaves hit seemed primed to be one of the biggest talking points of the game until the Red Wings’ ensuing major power-play advantage ended up blowing up in their faces. David Perron scored a shorthanded beauty to make it 1-0 and then a Detroit penalty allowed gave Andy McDonald the chance to score a 4-on-4 goal to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead midway through the final frame.

Normally that would be an ample lead for stingy St. Louis, but this is mean big brother Detroit we’re talking about. Some dazzling work from Pavel Datsyuk (redundant, I know) opened the door for two Johan Franzen goals and the Red Wings eventually benefited from Todd Bertuzzi’s 10th shootout goal to prevail in a useful win for the old standbys.

Those two goals were extra-shocking because Elliott’s shutout streak was ended at 241 minutes and 33 minutes, which in true Elliott fashion sort of slipped under the radar.

Check out highlights from the game below:

The impact for both teams

The Central Division is still firmly in the Blues’ control, but this loss damages their chance to take the Presidents’ Trophy and No. 1 seed in the West. St. Louis sits two points behind Vancouver for the West’s top seed with the tiebreaker advantage and two games left apiece. The Rangers also have a two-point lead with two games remaining but have more regulation/OT wins than the Blues.

In other words, it seems like the Red Wings spoiled the Blues’ chances of winning something they’re usually in the running for: the Presidents’ Trophy. Instead, Detroit is wrestling for at least one round of home ice advantage. They took a one-point lead over the Nashville Predators for fourth place in the West with both teams also having two games left, but things should remain interesting as Nashville holds the tiebreaker.

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Long story short, it wasn’t an enormous loss for St. Louis while Detroit squeezed out two points that could be huge considering its overall road woes.

Perhaps the Red Wings also planted the seed of doubt if the two teams happen to meet in the playoffs.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.

After advancing to Cup final, DeBoer had Sharks fans coming up to him with ‘tears in their eyes’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Head coach Peter DeBoer addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.

Now he knows.

“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”

The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.

More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.

It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”

Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.

“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”

Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot

Kopitar will play for Slovenia in Olympic qualifiers

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Anze Kopitar #11 of Slovenia skates against Russia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.

RTV Slovenia has the story here.

The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.

The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.

Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.

Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win

Zubrus in, Nieto likely out for Sharks in Stanley Cup Final opener

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Dainius Zubrus #9 of the San Jose Sharks skates against Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.

But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.

The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.

Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.

Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.