St. Louis — All the time Joe Pavelski has spent practicing his stick work has paid off big for the San Jose Sharks.
And the Sharks captain has his team on the brink of their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
“You think back to some of the best scorers ever, his ability to get his stick on pucks in front of the net from different angles is as good as anybody I’ve ever seen,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “His biggest asset is he works at it.”
With the Sharks trailing by a goal, Pavelski tied the game late in the second period and then scored the go-ahead goal in the opening minute of the third period in the Sharks’ 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues for a 3-2 lead in Western Conference final on Monday night.
“You play a good game like that, you want to ride that,” Pavelski said. “Everyone’s played a key role so far and it’s going to have to continue.”
Joel Ward also scored twice, including one of two empty-netters, in the final minute for San Jose, which can close out the series at home on Wednesday night. Joe Thornton had three assists.
“We just keep coming. We’re not going to give up and they’re not going to give up,” Thornton said. “Both teams, we’re here for a reason.”
The Sharks had a strong response after losing 6-3 in Game 4 in San Jose.
“We’ve done it all season, all playoff run,” forward Logan Couture said. “If we get down, the bench stays pretty even, pretty calm.”
Pavelski leads all players in the playoffs with 12 goals and has three two-goal games, one in each series. The Sharks’ captain added an assist and is tied with Couture for the postseason points lead, each with a franchise-record 21 points.
“It’s good to see Sharks up there,” Couture said.
Rookie Robby Fabbri scored and David Backes had an assist for St. Louis. Both were questionable coming off injuries in Game 4.
But star forward Vladimir Tarasenko was silent again. Tarasenko was minus-2 with one shot and is scoreless in the series after getting seven goals and 13 points in the first two rounds.
“He’s struggled this series,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He hasn’t gotten the looks that he normally gets. But he’s one shift away from breaking it open.”
The Blues are just 4-6 at home in the postseason, and failed to hold leads of 2-1 and 3-2 in Game 5. They’re 6-3 on the road and need another win to bring the series home for Game 7.
“We did it in Game 4,” Backes said. “Now, we’ve got to go in there and do it again.”
The Sharks are 6-2 at home in the postseason and need one more win to reach the Cup Final.
“I think we’re reminding them we’re not there yet,” DeBoer said. “There’s a lot of heavy lifting yet.”
The Sharks were 2-for-3 on the power play after entering 2-for-15 in the series.
Troy Brouwer batted in a rebound from midair for St. Louis and Ward scored a similar goal for San Jose with his first of the game.
Brouwer leads St. Louis with eight goals in 19 games this postseason after totaling seven in his first 78 playoff games.
Pavelski was left alone in the slot on a power play at 18:33 of the second and beat Jake Allen to tie it at 3-3. He redirected Brent Burns’ drive from the point 16 seconds into the third to put the Sharks in front to stay.
San Jose goalie Martin Jones allowed three goals on the Blues’ first 13 shots, but stopped all seven shots in the third period.
“He’s a great goalie,” defenseman Roman Polak said. “He’s mentally strong. No matter what happened in the first or second, it doesn’t matter.”
Blues goalie Jake Allen made 21 saves in his second straight start of the postseason. Hitchcock said he hadn’t decided whether Allen or Brian Elliott would start in Game 6.
“Numbers aren’t my thing,” Allen said. “Never have been, never will be. Wins are all that matter right now.”
The Sharks scored first on Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s first goal of the postseason from the point at 3:51 of the first period.
Jaden Schwartz snapped a 13-game goal drought to tie it on a rebound at 7:04 of the first.