Martin Havlat returned from a hamstring injury that sidelined him nearly half the season just in time for the San Jose Sharks’ playoff push.
In the opener, he pushed his team over the top.
Havlat scored his second goal of the game 3:34 into the second overtime, giving the Sharks a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of their playoff series Thursday night.
”The boys were in the hunt for the playoffs and I’m glad I could help them get in,” said Havlat, who had five points in the last four games. ”I got to know the boys a little bit more on the ice and I was ready to help them in this first game.
”Now, we’re in the playoffs and I’m excited.”
Andrew Desjardins tied it for San Jose with 5:16 in regulation, banging in a one-timer from the slot from Tommy Wingels, and Dan Boyle had two assists. Antti Niemmi, who won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, made 40 saves – 14 of them in the first overtime.
”There was no panic on the bench, that’s for sure,” forward Ryane Clowe said. ”You don’t want to get too uptight and’ panicky and think it’s not going to happen.
”Getting out of the first overtime and having a good conversation about what we needed to do and how we should have lots left to give helped us.”
The Sharks capitalized on mistakes for the winning goal. The Blues failed a couple times to clear the puck before Havlat swatted in a one-timer from the high slot off a pass from Clowe.
Havlat said the puck was rolling and that he just wanted to put it on net.
”It was a great feeling,” Havlat said. ”My first thought was that it was time to get some rest.”
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock loved the effort in his team’s first playoff game since 2009, except for the final sequence.
”There was a lot of errors on that goal. We had it cleared three or four times, didn’t win a race to the boards, either,” Hitchcock said. ”So, disappointing.”
Patrik Berglund scored hs first two career playoff goals in the third period for the Blues, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
”This is one game,” Hitchcock said. ”We played good, so did they. We weren’t in awe of anything.”
St. Louis swept the regular season series 4-0 for the first time since 1994-95 and lost only six games in regulation at home during the regular season. The Blues dropped the last two, however, to Phoenix and Columbus after clinching the Central Division.
Game 2 is Saturday night in St. Louis, and the Blues will be seeking their first postseason victory since 2004.
”We believe we can beat these guys,” Berglund said. ”We’ll regroup and see what we can do better.”
While the Blues struggled at the finish of the regular season, going 4-4-3, the Sharks won four in a row and seven of nine.
Havlat has scored 30 points in his last 29 playoff games. The Blues were in control most of the first overtime, reeling off nine shots in a row at one point.
Desjardins forced overtime with his second goal in four career playoff games at 14:44, banging in a one-timer from the slot off a feed from Tommy Wingels.
Berglund’s first goal came on a deflection that fluttered just under Antti Niemi’s armpit on the stick side in the opening minute, and the second came on a power play at 7:28 after Havlat was whistled for tripping Halak behind the net.
Andy McDonald’s speed created space on the second goal for Berglund, who was waiting in the slot. Berglund had one two-goal game during the regular season, Jan. 23 against Pittsburgh, and had one goal and no assists the last six games.
The Sharks, who were shut out in both trips to St. Louis during the season, capitalized on David Perron’s retaliation slashing penalty to take the lead. After getting driven into the boards by Brent Burns, Perron responded with a two-handed baseball swing to the torso, and Havlat’s deflection put San Jose in front with 22 seconds to go in the penalty.
Halak was well-screened on a wrist shot from the slot by Dan Boyle that was deflected in front at 6:02 for Havlat’s 29th point in his last 29 postseason games.
It was a rare failure by Blues penalty killers, who stopped 51 consecutive chances late in the season and were ranked eighth overall.
Alex Steen hit the goal post on a shorthanded breakaway with four minutes to go, a shot that could have tied it.
NOTES: The Sharks were 29-1-4 when leading after two periods during the regular season and the Blues were 4-13-2 when trailing after two. … The Sharks have 46 playoff victories since the Blues’ last win in 2004. …”Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm, who is from St. Louis, attended the game.