ST. LOUIS -- The San Jose Sharks took advantage of a tired and injury-depleted St. Louis Blues team Tuesday night, but not before getting a good scare en route to a 4-2 victory.
San Jose had built an early three-goal lead only to see the Blues whittle the margin down to one before the second period ended.
"A little wake-up call in the intermission and we were a better team in the third," said Marty Havlat, whose goal at 8:19 of the third period gave the Sharks the breathing room they needed to sweep their three-game season series with one of the Western Conference powers.
So how loud was that wake-up call in the locker room?
"A little bit louder than usual," Havlat allowed.
And was that coming from the coaching staff or players themselves?
"Probably both," Coach Todd McLellan said.
If the volume was up in the Sharks locker room it was because the team has been struggling of late and had just seen a 3-0 lead slip to 3-2 against a Blues team playing its third game in four nights without key forwards David Backes, Vladimir Sobotka and Jaden Schwartz.
Still, after the game, the emphasis was on the ability to tighten up in the third and beat a St. Louis team that suffered only its seventh regulation loss, not the letdown that allowed St. Louis back into the game.
"Needed to take advantage of a team that was tired and beat up and we did that tonight," McLellan said. "We're happy with that part."
Joe Pavelski, Matt Irwin and Brent Burns had staked San Jose to a three-goal lead before Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester scored for St. Louis late in the second period. Had the Sharks somehow not protected their lead, it would have been their sixth loss in seven games.
Instead, it was their second victory in the last three.
Strong starts have become the norm this season and for the 17th time in 34 games, San Jose jumped out to a 2-0 lead with both goals coming on shots that bounced off the back boards. Pavelski potted the first at 9:38 of the first period and Irwin nailed the second a little less than three minutes later for his first goal of the season.
The Sharks bumped the lead to 3-0 two minutes into the second period when Thornton fed the puck to Burns who came around the side of the net for his first goal since Nov. 29, when he scored a hat trick against St. Louis.
Burns was on a season high, eight-game goal drought and McLellan had been critical of Burns's recent play earlier in the week, wondering if the free-wheeling forward was under control enough to be effective.
"Burnzie slowed down enough to find good shooting positions," McLellan said after the game. "He found quiet ice, we call it, ice that he's available in. Slowed himself down enough to unload some really good shots. We haven't seen that from him for a while."
After falling behind 3-0, the Blues found whatever energy they were missing early on. St. Louis got on the scoreboard when Shattenkirk took advantage of a giveaway by Andrew Desjardins at 15:31 and drew within a goal when Bouwmeester launched a 54-foot slap shot that eluded a screened Niemi 24.2 before the second period was over.
That led to the "wake-up call" with Havlat coming through when Patrick Marleau deflection went off the post and right to the right win who had worked his way from the third line to the second over the course of the game.
"I think he's getting better every game," McLellan said. "He's accepting more and more of the responsibility that he has to for his play and for the teams' success, and he's been a big part of it. Would we like more offense from him? I think it's coming."
The Sharks finish their three-game trip Thursday night in Los Angeles.
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