Western Conference

Blues try to keep their cool despite losing on undetected hand pass

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We’ve already seen what a blown call can elicit from players in the infancy following the final buzzer of an NHL playoff game.

Jonathan Marchessault was rage-incarnate following the Vegas Golden Knights blew a 3-0 third-period lead in Game 7 of Round 1 after the San Jose Sharks were awarded a five-minute major on a phantom cross-checking call on teammate Cody Eakin.

Marchessault let it fly, four-letter words aplenty.

The St. Louis Blues loss in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final could very well have had the same reaction.

[Related: Missed call hands Sharks 2-1 series lead vs. Blues]

Erik Karlsson scored the overtime winner after Timo Meier‘s nifty hand pass found Gustav Nyquist, who dished it to Karlsson for his second of the game. The Blues appealed for justice immediately, but when the gavel hit, the goal stood.

“I really didn’t get an explanation other than I guess there’s a different set of rules for two different teams,” Alex Pietrangelo told reporters during his post-game scrum. “I’m sure they’ll lose some sleep tonight after looking at it.”

Asked if he thought it was a hand pass, Pietrangelo sarcastically laughed and then said he wasn’t going to say another word on the subject.

Craig Berube, too.

“I have nothing to say about it,” the Blues head coach said. “The team’s got to move on. We all have to move on from it. There’s nothing we can do about what happened.”

Prior to that, a reporter asked him if he thought there was a hand pass made on the play.

“What do you guys think?” Berube countered with.

“Yes” was the consensus answer for the press corps.

“Then don’t ask me. No reason to ask me,” Berube said.

Berube conceded that the Blues should have closed out the game after coming back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to lead 4-3 in the game before Logan Couture sent the game to overtime with a 1:01 remaining and the San Jose net empty.

But he wanted to lose on merit, at least.

Elsewhere, some chose to look straight ahead.

“Let’s move forward, that’s what we’re going to try and do in the next 24 hours,” said David Perron, who had two goals in the game. “We’re a really good team in here.”

Alex Steen flat-out wouldn’t comment on the play.

“That’s fine, you guys can talk about it,” Steen said when pressed on the subject. “We’re going to get ready for Game 4 here.”

Meanwhile, the NHL’s series director Kay Whitmore weighed in on the goal with The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford.

“It’s a non-reviewable play,” Whitemore said. “You can read between the lines. You can figure out what you want. You watched the video. But it’s just non-reviewable. I know that sounds like a cop-out answer, but that’s the truth.”

Whitmore was asked if the NHL’s Situation Room in Toronto could step in.

“If there was, then you answered your (question),” he said. “The way the rules are written, any chance there is to review, everything is reviewed that’s reviewable. But as the rules currently stand, the play is non-reviewable.”

Whitemore was then asked if the play should be reviewable.

“There’s a group of people (GMs) that will make that decision at some point,” he said.

Unlike the Golden Knights, the Blues have a chance to right the wrong. Better it happen in Game 3 than in Game 7, if that’s any consolation in St. Louis.

MORE: Vince Dunn done for night after being struck in mouth by puck


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Missed call hands Sharks 2-1 series lead vs. Blues

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Neither of them saw it.

All four of them, specifically.

Two referees and two linesmen missed a hand pass by Timo Meier, a puck that Gustav Nyquist then moved to Erik Karlsson, who planted it behind Jordan Binnington for the overtime winner in a 5-4 triumph, now shrouded in controversy, that put the San Jose Sharks ahead of the St. Louis Blues 2-1 in the Western Conference Final.

From the moment the light went on behind Binnington, the Blues were incensed. Binnington got right back to his feet after the puck trickled by him and immediately pleaded the case. The rest of his teammates followed his lead.

The play, however, wasn’t reviewable. The Situation Room in Toronto would be of no use. And all four in the black and white striped long-sleeves missed what appeared to be a blatant hand pass.

The goal, then, had to stand.

This is the rule, if you’re wondering:

79.1 Hand Pass – A player shall be permitted to stop or “bat” a puck in the air with his open hand, or push it along the ice with his hand, and the play shall not be stopped unless, in the opinion of the on-ice officials he has directed the puck to a teammate, or has allowed his team to gain an advantage, and subsequently possession and control of the puck is obtained by a player of the offending team, either directly or deflected off any player or official.

The Sharks have been on the right side of luck a couple times now in the playoffs, most notably in Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights. Trailing 3-0 in the third period, the Sharks were gifted a five-minute power play after Cody Eakin was thought to have cross-checked Joe Pavelski in the head, causing him to crash violently into the ice and forcing him out of the game.

You know the rest of that story. The Sharks tied the game and then won in overtime to progress to face the Blues.

Two missed calls and two critical wins for the Sharks, who regained home-ice advantage after the Blues earned a split back at SAP Center.

And credit to the Blues, who despite letting their frustrations out on the glass and the half boards, took the high road after the game.

“I have nothing to say about it,” Craig Berube said. “The team’s got to move on. We all have to move on from it. There’s nothing we can do about what happened.”

Added Alex Pietrangelo: “I guess there’s a different set of rules for two different teams. I’m sure they’ll lose some sleep tonight after looking at it.”

The Blues had a remarkable second period after the Sharks jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Alex Steen‘s second of the playoffs cut the deficit in half just 1:18 into the period. Joe Thornton‘s second of the night canceled that out just 18 seconds later, but the Blues and their never-die attitude, rebounded, scoring three straight, one from Vladimir Tarasenko and then two goals from David Perron in a span of 2:39.

“We’ve got to do better there,” Berube said. “We got to close that game out, in my opinion. We should have won it 4-3.”

Colton Parayko had his hand on three of the four second-period goals, grabbing assists on them while he kept Logan Couture at bay.

That happens from time to time. Sometimes for 20 minutes. Maybe 40. Even 58:59. But 60 minutes? Godspeed to you.

And while Parayko put in a valiant effort against Couture, when the net was empty and it was 6-on-5 for the Sharks, Parayko couldn’t hold the fort anymore.

Couture’s league-leading 14th sent the game to overtime.

Game 4 goes on Friday at 8 p.m. on NBCSN

MORE: Vince Dunn done for night after being struck in mouth by puck


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sharks need the very best of Jones vs. Avs

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Martin Jones can’t have a repeat of Round 1.

The San Jose Sharks could certainly use a few snippets from that seven-game series against the Vegas Golden Knights. Jones allowed just five goals across Games 1, 5 and 6, including a 58-save performance in the penultimate game that ended in double overtime.

It’s Games 2 thru 4 that Jones and the Sharks can’t afford. Going from 1-0 up in a series to 3-1 down. Being the scapegoat for your team’s misfortunes. That sort of thing.

It’s safe to say Jones wore a lot of hats in Round 1.

Getting pulled twice in a playoff series and allow six goals in another game where you weren’t given a mercy tug probably should have ended exactly how you might think — crashing out of the playoffs because bad goaltending doesn’t win championships.

Instead, Jones was able to rally, composing himself after getting benched in Game 4. San Jose did eventually win the series in controversial fashion, and Jones in Game 7 still wasn’t all that great (four goals allowed on 38 shots) despite getting the ‘W’ in an insane 5-4 overtime thriller. But he was able to pull himself back from the dead in Games 5 and 6 to put San Jose in a position to win, and that stroke of luck San Jose got in Game 7 was enough to

Jeykll and Hyde are thrown around too often in sports, but truly, it was Jones’ series to a T.

Games 2-4

• Record: 0-2 (pulled twice with one no-decision)
• .796 save percentage
• 7.62 goals-against average

Games 5-7

• Record: 3-0
• .946 save percentage
• 1.83 goals-against average

Jones is certainly going to have his hands full. The Avalanche put up an NHL high 41 shots per game in Round 1 and were fourth in goals per game at 3.40. Conversely, San Jose gave up the third-most number of shots per game, so the rubber is coming whether Jones likes it or not.

Jones’ five-on-five save percentage was a .924 in the Vegas series. To put that in perspective, it was good for ninth best among goalies in the round. Philipp Grubauer, who Jones will duel in the series, held a .964 save percentage in 5v5 situations — best in the league.

It should be noted that Jones’ expected save percentage was much worse at .913.

Jones’ goals-save above average also got a nice boost from being much worse after Game 6. Grubauer was the best in the category in Round 1, saving 4.74 more goals than what was expected when compared to the average.

And it should be noted that Jones will be facing one of the best lines in hockey in Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. Jones had his hands full with Mark Stone and Co. against Vegas and there will be no let up in this series.

Colorado walked all over the Calgary Flames, who got slightly better goaltending in that series.

Then there are the tangibles that can’t be calculated on a spreadsheet. Getting pulled twice in three games doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Letting in bad goals is deflating. That said, the Sharks were able to rally around massive bounceback efforts in Games 5 and 6, particularly.

If the Sharks go on to win the Cup, no one will be talking much about Jones’ first-round performance. But given that San Jose is still a long way from that, and they’re getting ready to face one of the – if not the — best line in the NHL, it’s rather timely.

The deeper the Sharks go, the harder the going gets. Jones simply needs to be at the top of his game.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jones stops 58, Hertl scores shorthanded in double OT as Sharks force Game 7

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Martin Jones wouldn’t face the media following a Game 4 benching following a disastrous first period.

The official story from the San Jose Sharks’ public relations team was that the couldn’t find the embattled goaltender. This was hardly surprising after Jones had been chased twice in the first four games of the series, including Game 4 after two goals on seven shots led to his benching.

However long Jones was lost for, he emerged as the starter for Game 5 and began what would become a mini redemption tour, one that will make a stop in Game 7 on Tuesday after the Sharks battle back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Vegas Golden Knights, winning Game 6 on Sunday night 2-1 in double overtime at T-Mobile Arena.

And what theatrics he had to make getting there, stopping 58 shots total to set a new franchise record in any game in their history, and a shorthanded snipe by Tomas Hertl just when it looks like Vegas might finally breach Jones’ defenses.

Part of sticking with Jones came down to not having a better alternative. Aaron Dell, San Jose’s backup, fared no better between the pipes as Mark Stone et al crushed the Sharks.

Vegas, of course, knows a thing or two about incredible goaltending — it carried them to the Stanley Cup Final last season. On Sunday, it obstructed them from taking another step toward hockey’s holy grail.

The Sharks really had no business being in a tie game when the clock read zeroes after three periods. Jones made it possible.

Jones has worn a couple hats in this series. He’s a big reason why the Sharks found themselves trailing 3-1 in the series. He allowed a whopping 11 goals on 54 shots between Game 2 and Game 4, a save percentage that is almost unfathomable.

Somewhere between his disappearance after Game 4 and being located in time for Game 5, Jones had some sort of epiphany. Horrible regular-season save percentage be damned, he was going to show everyone.

And he has.

Jones made 30 saves while facing elimination in Game 5 a couple of days ago to pull a game back for the Sharks. On Sunday, Jones had to be sharp again, stopping 17 shots in each of the second and third periods as the Sharks were wildly outplayed.

Somehow Hertl found the oomph needed to work Shea Theodore, sniping a wrister from the top of the left circle.

As crazy as this series has been, it gets more nutzo knowing that there’s yet to be a lead change through six games. The Sharks are also 35-0 this season when allowing two goals or fewer. Vegas set a new record for shots on goal in a game with 59. They had 119 shot attempts, which is all sorts of madness.

And it all sets up for a brilliant Tuesday night where the Sharks and Golden Knights will join the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs for a Game 7 extravaganza.

The hockey world can hardly wait.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Stars’ top line firing on all cylinders, push Predators to the brink

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It would appear that the Dallas Stars have emptied the Nashville Predators’ well of ideas on how to stop them.

After three close games where Nashville walked away victors of two of them, the Predators have succumbed to a relentless forechecking team that’s clogged the neutral zone and found solid goaltending from Vezina nominee Ben Bishop.

There are just so many little things the Stars are doing right at the moment, and they now hold a 3-2 series lead after a 5-3 win against the Preds on Saturday afternoon, their second straight win in the series and second game in a row where they’ve pumped five goals into the twine.

There’s one team left in these Stanley Cup Playoffs that has yet to give up a power-play goal. That team currently has its foot on the throat of the Predators.

The Stars are 11-for-11 now on the penalty kill through five games of their Western Conference First Round series. It’s been a big boon for the Stars in a series that was tight through the first three games.

Scoring for the Predators has come at a premium in this series, and having a completely misfiring power play has made it much worse.

Nine goals against in his past two outings isn’t what you’d expect from Pekka Rinne, but that’s the reality right now as the reigning Vezina winner isn’t making the saves required. The Predators can’t handle Dallas’s forecheck when it’s going full steam ahead and Rinne is taking the brunt of it.

Nashville’s offense has fallen off a cliff, which is saying a lot for a team that wasn’t a high-scoring offense during the regular season.

Rocco Grimaldi‘s third goal of the series to give the Predators a 1-0 lead was just the sixth goal by a Nashville forward in the series up until that point.

Grimaldi has been great, but he shouldn’t be leading the team at the moment. Ryan Johansen finally picked up his first of the series later in this one. Kyle Turris, too.

Radulov’s brace to open the second period opened up a 3-1 lead. Johansen’s goal pulled the Predators back one, but Tyler Seguin snatched the two-goal cushion back before the second was over.

Dickinson’s second of the game put Dallas up 5-2 and other than Turris’ response 28 seconds after that, the Predators didn’t show their teeth much.

Jamie Benn finished with three assists and his line with Seguin and Radulov combined for seven points. Bishop made 30 saves.

Game 6 goes Monday at American Airlines Center at 8:30 p.m. ET on CNBC


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck