Brandon Saad scores twice, leads Blues past Sharks 5-3

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)Brandon Saad scored twice in his second game back from the COVID-19 list and the St. Louis Blues used a three-goal second period to beat the San Jose Sharks 5-3 on Thursday night.

Saad scored a short-handed goal in the first period and tied the game in the second with an even-strength goal as he looked back up to speed after four games following a positive test for COVID-19.

”It’s always nice when they’re going in,” Saad said. ”I just tried to keep it simple out there, especially on a back-to-back, getting your legs back.”

Pavel Buchnevich and James Neal also scored, and Robert Thomas sealed it with an empty-netter for the Blues. That scoring outburst helped Joel Hofer get the win in his NHL debut with 23 saves. He also got an assist on the empty-netter.

”I found out this morning,” Hofer said about making his debut. ”There was obviously a lot of emotions going through my head. But yeah, it’s obviously super special. You dream of it your whole life and to get the win, in the first game, too, it’s the cherry on top.”

Brent Burns, Logan Couture and Nick Merkley scored for the short-handed Sharks, who have seven players on the COVID-19 list. Adin Hill made 23 saves.

The Blues, playing on back-to-back nights after a shootout loss in Los Angeles on Wednesday, took the lead with a three-goal second period.

Buchnevich and Merkley traded goals in a span of 29 seconds early in the period as the Sharks answered to take a 3-2 lead.

But Saad then got his second goal when he beat Hill from the top of the circle on the rush.

Neal made it 4-3 when he was left alone in front, backhanding a rebound into an open net.

There was a parade of penalties in the first period, with Buchnevich getting called for boarding with St. Louis on an early power play, and then Tarasenko getting an unsportsmanlike conduct for his frustration

Ivan Barbashev then was called for a double minor for high sticking. The Sharks had 4:51 of consecutive power-play time, including nearly a minute of a two-man advantage.

But St. Louis played it even during that stretch with Hofer allowing only a slap shot by Burns to get by him on seven shots. The Blues got that goal back when Saad finished off a two-on-one rush with Tyler Bozak.

”I don’t think we played our best,” Couture said. ”We could have jumped out to a bigger lead off the start. We had all those power plays. There are a team coming off a game last night. If we get two or three off the hop I think we put ourselves in a better spot.”

The Sharks then got a short-handed goal of their own late in the period when Couture beat Hofer on the rush.

DECISION TIME

Sharks rookie forward William Eklund played his ninth game. If he plays another game, the first year of his entry-level contract would kick in and he would be eligible to become a restricted free agent after the 2023-2024 season. The Sharks could opt to return the 19-year-old to the Swedish Hockey League and delay the start of his entry-level deal for another year.

Eklund has four assists on the season and got a big endorsement from Couture, who said he’s ”going to be an elite player in this league.”

COVID UPDATE

The seven Sharks players in COVID-19 protocol all remain there: F Kevin Labanc, D Erik Karlsson, F Timo Meier, D Jake Middleton, F Matt Nieto, D Radim Simek and D Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Coach Bob Boughner and trainer Ray Tufts remain there and equipment manager Mike Aldrich was added to the list.

The Blues have several players in COVID-19 protocol including captain Ryan O’Reilly, goalie Ville Husso and forward Kyle Clifford.

St. Louis also lost forward Brayden Schenn to an upper-body injury during the game.

UP NEXT

Blues: Visit Anaheim on Sunday.

Sharks: Host New Jersey on Saturday night.

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