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Los Angeles
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 on Sunday.
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 the 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.
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer admitted his team had paid the price for failing to capitalise on their dominant second period.
"The tragedy of the second period was we spent the whole period in their end and lost the period 1-0," DeBoer said."That was basically the game.
"We had to score more than one goal tonight. We had plenty of chances to do that. We had some opportunities to score more than the one we got, and we've got to cash in."
Backes meanwhile heaped praise on Elliott's performance.
"When your goalie is your best player, it gives you a good chance of winning," Backes said.
"It was that way tonight, and it's been that way through the first two rounds. Nothing has changed here."
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.
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