On a San Jose Sharks team filled with established stars, 22-year-old Timo Meier can get overlooked at times even though he scored 30 goals in the regular season.
“He was a bull,” Couture said. “When he skates and his strength, he’s tough to defend. We’re fortunate enough to play with him on our line, and I thought he was really, really good. Good stick, strong on pucks, you saw the talent on the one where he was able to walk around the d-man and finish. He’s a really good player and he’s coming into his own right now.”
Meier’s hit on Alex Pietrangelo led to Couture’s goal that opened the scoring in the first period and he then scored twice in the second to give the Sharks a comfortable lead and their third straight Game 1 win this post-season.
Couture added an empty-net goal to give him an NHL-leading 11 in the playoffs. Joe Pavelski and Kevin Labanc also scored for San Jose and Martin Jones made 28 saves.
WATCH | Sharks strike first in Western Conference final:
“We have so many great guys on this team, so many players that are just unbelievable hockey players,” Meier said. “It’s fun to be able to play at this time of the year, and obviously have success, that’s what I’m playing for. To win a Stanley Cup.”
Game 2 is Monday night at the Shark Tank.
Joel Edmundson, Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak scored for the Blues but the team gave little help to rookie goalie Jordan Binnington to get off to a rough start in the conference final. Binnington made 19 saves but was left exposed by his defense on numerous occasions.
This series is a matchup between two franchises seeking their first championships after years of playoff disappointments. They endured tough roads to get here with the Sharks needing to win a pair of seven-game series and the Blues needing a double-overtime win in Game 7 against Dallas to make it to their fourth conference final in the past 49 years.
The teams traded goals midway through the second period with Labanc converting after a turnover by Edmundson and O’Reilly answering 1:17 later with a nifty move to get around Jones and tuck a rebound into the open net.
“He’s got some good speed. He makes some good little plays out there,” Pavelski said. “Tonight it was on display for sure. When he picks it up in the neutral zone and he has the speed going, that one goal was really nice. He can definitely push the D back and generate some chances.”
Meier then got his first two-goal game in the post-season late in the period when he banked a pass from behind the goal line off Vince Dunn’s skate and into the net to make it 5-2.
Bozak scored with 6:59 left in the third for the Blues but they couldn’t get any closer despite pulling Binnington with more than four minutes remaining. Couture then sealed it with an empty-netter.
“We got caught in some turnovers and they capitalized on them,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “We are too spread out, during playoff time, you have to have numbers around the puck. You have to have puck support everywhere. And we didn’t have enough support.”