SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Sharks have been at their best this postseason when they had little margin for error.
That’s probably why they feel comfortable heading home for Game 5 of the Western Conference final against the Blues after a lackluster start led to a Game 4 loss in St. Louis.
Having squandered a series lead for the second time in this matchup, the Sharks know a loss today could mean they won’t get to play on home ice again this postseason.
“It’s a great spot to be in,” coach Peter DeBoer said Saturday. “This is supposed to be hard. What happened with Boston on the other side, that usually doesn’t happen. Usually these are all six, seven hard-fought games, hard-fought series. We’re right where I expected we would be, in a good spot going home, and we’ve got to get the job done.”
After alternating wins in the first four games, the Sharks and Blues now have a best-of-three to decide who plays the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final. Boston swept Carolina in the East and will have 10 days off before the start of the next round May 27.
Nothing has come easy for San Jose or St. Louis. The Blues went six games in the opening round against Winnipeg before needing double overtime in Game 7 of the second round against Dallas to make the conference final.
The Sharks, meanwhile, have endured two seven-game series — Vegas and Colorado. That’s happened in part because they have appeared to let up when leading a series before responding with greater desperation.
San Jose is 0-6 this postseason when leading a series. But it is 10-2 when tied or trailing, including four wins in elimination games sparked by a comeback from 3-1 down in the opening round to the Golden Knights.
The Blues got a goal from Ivan Barbashev 35 seconds into Game 4 and added another late in the first period before hanging on for the 2-1 win Friday.
It was an impressive rebound from a crushing Game 3 loss when the Blues allowed the tying goal with 1:01 left in regulation and then the winner in overtime after the officials failed to see a hand pass by San Jose that set up Erik Karlsson’s goal.
The Blues will again be without defenseman Vince Dunn, who took a puck to the face in Game 3.