Los Angeles (AFP) – Brian Elliott produced a goaltending masterclass as the St. Louis Blues edged out the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in the opening game of their NHL Western Conference finals series.
Blues goalie Elliott made a staggering 32 saves as St. Louis took an early advantage in the best-of-seven series at their home Scottrade Center rink.
David Backes had fired St. Louis into a 1-0 lead in the first period before Tomas Hertl leveled shortly afterwards to make it 1-1.
Jori Lehtera scored an unassisted goal midway through the second period to break the deadlock and St. Louis then hung on for a 2-1 victory.
Elliott’s masterful display in goal proved to be decisive, with the goalie stopping 32 of 33 shots throughout.
The goalie’s refusal to be beaten included a spell of ferocious pressure in the second period when he saved all 16 shots by San Jose.
Elliott also held firm in a frantic finale as the Sharks pulled opposite number Martin Jones out as an extra attacker.
Lehtera’s winning effort came at 9:15 in the second period when he pounced on a stray pass by Brent Burns and rifled a shot past Jones .
It was only Lehtera’s second goal in 15 playoff games this season.
Earlier, the Blues had made a dream start to their first conference final game since 2001 when Backes put them ahead on a power play, deflecting Kevin Shattenkirk’s shot past Jones.
But just 34 seconds after Backes opener, the Sharks leveled through a Hertl deflection from Burns as Elliott was finally beaten.
Elliott brushed off the setback to hold firm as San Jose chased a second goal.
One of his best saves came from former college hockey team-mate Joe Pavelski in the second period. He also made a sliding save from a Patrick Marleau effort as the Blues rode their luck during a San Jose power play.
Game two takes place on Tuesday in St. Louis.