THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Troy Brouwer and Kyle Brodziak each scored twice, Jake Allen stopped 31 shots in his first start of the postseason and the St. Louis Blues bounced back from consecutive shutout losses to beat the San Jose Sharks, 6-3, on Saturday to even the Western Conference final at two games apiece.
Coach Ken Hitchcock hoped the change in goalie would spark his dormant offense and the move paid off as the Blues controlled the play from the start of Game 4.
Brouwer and Jori Lehtera scored in the first period and the Blues rolled after getting dominated the previous two games when they were outscored 7-0. Alex Pietrangelo added an empty-netter to seal it.
Now it will be up to San Jose to reverse the momentum in Game 5 on Monday night in St. Louis.
Martin Jones, who became the first Sharks goalie ever with consecutive playoff shutouts, was pulled midway through the second period after allowing four goals on 19 shots. James Reimer allowed one goal on seven shots in his first action of the playoffs.
Joe Pavelski set a San Jose franchise record with his 10th goal of the postseason. Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson also scored in the third for the Sharks, but it wasn’t enough as San Jose went 0-for-5 on the power play and allowed a short-handed goal.
There was some cause for concern for St. Louis. Captain David Backes did not play in the final two periods and the Blues did not disclose what injury he had.
St. Louis took control early in the second period after it seemed like San Jose had gained momentum from killing a two-man advantage and then drawing a penalty from the Blues.
But the power play that looked so lethal for most of the playoffs was not clicking this game. The Sharks struggled to set up in the offensive zone and gave up a pair of two-on-one chances the other way. The second of those came after an errant pass from Joe Thornton and St. Louis capitalized when Brodziak took a pass from Jaden Schwartz and beat Jones to make it 3-0.
Brodziak struck again a few minutes later off a pass from Dmitrij Jaskin and the Blues cruised to the win that has them the closest they have been to the Stanley Cup final since losing a seven-game conference final to Calgary in 1986.
The Sharks played with a series lead in the conference final for the first time ever but now find themselves tied after four games, just as they were in their first trip in 2004 when they lost to Calgary in six.
Along with giving Allen the start, Hitchcock put the struggling Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko on the same line with Lehtera and put defenseman Joel Edmundson back in the lineup after benching him in Game 3.
The changes paid dividends as the Blues got off to a fast start. They hemmed the Sharks in their own zone with a strong forecheck and took a 2-0 lead after one.
Brouwer opened the scoring after Brent Burns was sent off for tripping, beating Jones with a one-timer off a feed from Fabbri to end St. Louis’ scoreless drought after 156:59.