The St. Louis Blues were pretty flat in Game 2 and wanted to shake things up this time around. That's why feisty left wing Tyson Nash was back in the lineup last night. And Nash may have jacked up the Sharks while he was trying to get his own team going.
Just a rookie, Nash already has established himself as one of the most annoying players in the NHL, constantly throwing his body around at anyone and everyone wearing an opponent's jersey, and always getting into someone's face and causing a ruckus.
It didn't take Nash long to get to work. On his first shift, he gave Sharks defenseman Mike Rathje, a much bigger man, a glove to the face before hauling him down -- and no penalty was called. Nash later gave center Mike Ricci a shove in the back after a whistle.
"He's a physical player," Rathje said. "He runs around . . . it's good. It gets you in the game. He came out right off the bat and hit me a couple of times."
Sometimes, Nash can get carried away, such as when he was sent off for a needless cross-checking penalty on Rathje at 3:52 of the first period, which eventually became a two-man advantage and led to Owen Nolan's first goal of the game.
However, Nash can also rile opponents enough to where he suckers them into taking infractions. That's what happened when he was engaged with Shark Dave Lowry, goading the veteran into committing a boarding foul.
"He's effective," Sharks defenseman Jeff Norton said. "We said after the first period we shouldn't take penalties on a guy who plays five minutes a game. That's when he's effective, he puts (Chris) Pronger and (Al) MacInnis on the power play.
"He's not going to hurt anybody, (but) he hits you hard. You know he's coming."
Norton didn't give Nash enough credit for his ice time on this night: The rookie played nine minutes and 42 seconds.
RATHJE RULES: Rathje, not known for physical play despite his 6-foot-5, 230-pound stature, was a force against the Blues last night in arguably his best game all year. He even added an assist, on Nolan's game-winning goal.
"He has to play well for us to win, that's the bottom line," Sharks coach Darryl Sutter said. "It's no different than how he's played all year. Rathje (and blue-liner partner Marcus Ragnarsson) play against everyone's best players. Compared to the other team's top defensive (pairs), I consider them right up there."
PERSONNEL DEPT.: Not surprisingly, the Sharks stuck with the same lineup that produced a victory in Game 2. That meant veteran left wing Dave Lowry remained on the top line with center Vincent Damphousse and right wing Owen Nolan. Patrick Marleau was once again scratched, as were defensemen Andy Sutton and Scott Hannan, along with right wing Ronnie Stern, who has yet to dress in the series.