Although Game 3 saw another controversial call and another set of officials losing face, pressure continued to rise. Both teams advanced after exhausting Game 7’s last round, leading to fatigue on both benches. This series was fairly even through the first three games and Friday’s Game 4 wasn’t any different.
Game 4 of the 2019 Western Conference Final
The St. Louis Blues came out aggressive, with Ivan Barbashev scoring on a deflection only 35 seconds in. Martin Jones rebounded from the goal and made a handful of key saves to keep the score 1-0 as Sharks top defensive players floundered against the Blues dominant forecheck. Frustration led to two penalties against the Sharks and although the Pacific Division team has been 81.4 percent on the penalty kill, they couldn’t kill the second penalty as the Blues scored a power-play goal with less than two minutes left in the period. Tyler Bozak was credited with the goal.
The Blues intensity tapered in the second period and the Sharks found some time and space to create a lot of great offensive chances. Blues turnovers in the neutral zone saw the home team tested defensively for the first time in the game. Although Jordan Binnington remained characteristically calm, the Blues lost discipline with two minor penalties. Although the penalties were successfully killed, momentum was gaining in the Sharks favor. This momentum led to San Jose outshooting the Blues 11 to 8 in the second period.
The Sharks play improved as the game progressed. Defensive line-up changes put San Jose’s Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns together and Marc-Edouard Vlasic with Justin Braun. These combinations contributed to the Blues slowing down and conceding a bad penalty while on the power-play themselves. While on the ensuing power play, Tomas Hertl was able to cut down the Sharks lead to only one goal. This Sharks power play also saw St Louis forward, Sammy Blais struggle off the ice after taking a blocked shot.
But the high tempo continued with the Blues. They weren’t able to capitalize on any of their power plays as the game came to an end. The Sharks saw their own negatives, though. Karlsson did not play for almost half of the period, perhaps with a groin injury. But the San Jose offence harassed Binnington right up until the final whistle. However, the Blues stayed strong and were able to tie the series at two games a piece.
Game 5 is at San Jose on Sunday night.