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Sharks close out Blues; advance to Western Conference semis

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San Jose, CA (Sports Network) - led the way with 21 saves, as the San Jose closed out their Western Conference quarterfinal series with a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis in Game 5 at HP Pavilion. and both scored for San Jose, which took the best-of- seven series four games to one and will move on to the second round one year after failing to qualify for the post-season.

added a late insurance goal for the , who have now reached the Western Conference semifinals for the third time in five years.

"Nobody has given us an opportunity right from the start of the year," said San Jose forward . "No one ever thought we'd make the playoffs."

recorded the only goal for St. Louis, which fought back from an 0-2 deficit and captured Game 3 at home only to lose a close 4-3 Game 4 on Tuesday night.

Goaltender allowed three goals on 20 shots for St. Louis, which competed in the playoffs for the 25th consecutive season. The lost in the opening round for the second year in a row after they surrendered a 3-1 series lead and lost to Vancouver in the conference quarterfinals in 2003.

The wasted little time in gaining the early lead. In the opening minutes, passed out to the low right circle from behind the net to , who ripped a quick shot on Osgood. The save was made, but the rebound went out to the left hash and Stuart fired it home for a 1-0 lead just 1:50 into the game.

Shortly after, a miscue by the nearly led to another San Jose goal. 's breakout pass was broken up at the blue line before forward Nicholas Dimitrakos picked it up and released a wrister from the left circle. Although the shot was headed wide, Pronger hustled back and tried to bat the puck out of harm's way. The disc bounced off the iron before Osgood scooped it up.

The play seemed to wake up the , who fought back and knotted the contest with 6:50 remaining in the opening stanza. took advantage of a good body check by linemate behind the net and gained control of the puck. Weight came out in front and slid a pass across the crease for Savage, who pounded home his first post-season goal at the right post.

Play was tight throughout the remainder of the opening period and into the next before the began to take control as the second stanza unfolded.

About five minutes in, Ricci took a shot from in close, but Osgood slid over for a nice pad save. The play continued to be dominated by the and eventually, the let their frustration get the best of them.

Just 16 seconds after took a tripping minor, was whistled for hooking when he took down Dimitrakos along the left wing. The Baron infraction gave way to a 1:42 two-man advantage for the .

However, despite decent pressure, Osgood stood tall and kept the puck out of the net. The best chance San Jose had was when Stuart fired a slap shot from inside the left circle, however Osgood cut off the angle.

Several minutes after its failed power play, San Jose grabbed a 2-1 lead with 10:26 to play in the second period. Facing a 3-on-2, Osgood made a stick save, but a St. Louis clearing attempt was then deflected and bounced directly to Smith. With Osgood out of position, Smith quickly fired the puck home from a sharp angle to the right of the net.

"As soon as it got on my stick, I looked up and saw the open net," said Smith. I just threw it in the net."

The gained a power play later in the frame when Stuart drew a holding call. had a good look from the right circle, but missed wide with under nine minutes to go in the middle period.

In the third, the play was wide open at both ends of the ice. With over 13 minutes to play, forward was alone in the low slot, but failed on a wrister.

As the clock continued to dwindle on the season, they mounted an attack on the San Jose net, but kept coming up short. When took a high- sticking minor at 12:29, it didn't help matters much as the went on the power play.

However, the killed the man advantage and kept pressing for the equalizer. But it was just not to be, as Nabokov, who finished the third period with eight saves, shut the door.

"Considering how they were coming at us, it takes a lot of character to survive in that environment and we showed it," said coach Ron Wilson.

The finishing touches were then put on by Ricci, who deflected a wrister from the center point by with 3:38 remaining. Ricci, along with Stuart and Smith, scored for the first time in the series.

A last gasp for the came when Stuart took a hooking penalty with 1:18 left, but the clock expired and the teams met at center ice for the traditional series-ending handshake.

St. Louis was attempting to come back and from an 0-2 hole and win a best-of seven series for the second time in 14 attempts. The only time it happened was when the downed the then-Minnesota North in seven games in 1972.

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