Friday, April 13, 2012

Havlat's second of the game a winner for Sharks

Blues fall into 0-1 hole in best-of-7 series against San Jose after falling at home

ST. LOUIS -- More times than not, the team that flinches first in a playoff overtime game is usually the one that's left to winder what might have been.

There was a failed clearing attempt and in a flash, Martin Havlat was finishing off the game-winner.

Havlat's second goal of the game 3 minutes 34 seconds into the second overtime helped the Sharks upset the Blues 3-2 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals Thursday night before 19,333 at Scottrade Center.

The Blues, who have lost seven straight postseason games dating back to 2004, victimized themselves with what coach Ken Hitchcock called a number if mistakes on the winning goal.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Andy McDonald (left) battles with San Jose's Dan Boyle during
Thursday's Western Conference Quarterfinal opener at Scottrade Center.

After the Blues' Kevin Shattenkirk failed to get clear his zone, Havlat got a pass in the high slot from Ryane Clowe and fired a one-timer past Jaroslav Halak to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which resumes Saturday night in St. Louis.

"I was just trying to get it on net and I got a shot through and it went it," Havlat said. "It was a great play by Ryane to get me the puck. The puck was rolling a little bit and I saw it went it. It was a great feeling. My first thought was that it was time to get some rest."

There was a pick play by San Jose's Logan Couture on St. Louis' Vladimir Sobotka on the play. It helped create some room for Clowe to get a soft backhand pass to Havlat, who made no mistake in firing a shot that seemed to glance off the Blues' Barret Jackman and beat Halak on the near side.

But the Blues, who felt like they played well enough to win, were more disappointed in what they felt like was a number of mistakes on the play.

"I have my stick on it and it's a play that's got to be made," Shattenkirk said. "It's got to be a harder play, I've got to get it past [Couture] and get the puck out of the zone there. That's what these games boil down to are plays like that. It's kind of my first reality check, I guess and first real taste of playoffs and how one mistake can really come back and bite you.

"I took an angle to skate with it and I saw him pinching off the wall and tried to chip it by him. It's got to be a harder play."

Hitchcock wouldn't single out Shattenkirk.

"There was a lot of errors on the goal," Hitchcock said. "It's unfortunate, there were a lot of errors on that goal. We had it cleared 3-4 times, didn't win a race to the boards either. So [it was] disappointing. We played a very good hockey game, but that's playoffs."

Havlat, who also scored on the power play to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead in the second period, was brought in by trade from Minnesota before the season and was touted as a big-game player.

He lived up to that billing Thursday.

"He has that reputation," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Havlat. "That's one of the reasons why he was acquired. He lived up to it tonight.

"We're very lucky that he had the type of game that he had tonight. It had to be taxing on him. You have to remember that he's only played 13-14 games returning from his injury. To go four-and-a-half periods, give him credit. He managed himself well. He scored some big goals."

Andrew Desjardins had the other goal for the Sharks and Dan Boyle and Clowe each had two assists for the Sharks. Antti Niemi stopped 40 shots.

"I thought Nemo played well," McLellan said of Niemi. "We put enough pressure on their goaltender as well to win. We can't lose sight of what they are. They're an extremely strong, defensive team. They don't give you a lot. They don't give you a lot of shots, period, never mind scoring chances."

Patrik Berglund scored two third-period goals and Halak stopped 31 shots as the Blues lost to the Sharks for the first time in five meetings -- St. Louis swept the four regular-season games.

"Overall, I think our third period was our best," Berglund said. "We had a bunch of zone time and created scoring chances. Obviously we've got to try to build from that and regroup tomorrow and go back at it on Saturday."

San Jose struck first when Havlat deflected home Boyle's shot from the high slot 6:02 into the second period during a power play after David Perron took a retaliatory slashing penalty on Brent Burns behind the Sharks' net.

Havlat was able to free himself after knocking Alex Pietrangelo out of the play on what could have been an interference call. But with no whistle, Pietrangelo was late getting back into defensive position and allowed Boyle to skate in and let go a shot; Havlat was able to redirect it high into the net past Halak for a 1-0 lead. It was San Jose's first goal in this building this season, a span of 146:02 and 150:58 dating back to last season.

Alex Steen just missed tying the game in the second period, but his shot rang off the crossbar and goal post with four minutes left in the period.

But Berglund tied the game just 54 seconds into the third period, deflecting Shattenkirk's right point shot between his legs and over Niemi's right shoulder, triggering an eruption from the sellout crowd.

Berglund struck again after taking a pass from Andy McDonald. The Sharks came in shorthanded and got caught on an odd-man rush, with McDonald feeding Berglund, who skated around Joe Pavelski and snapped a shot past Niemi 7:28 into the third for a 2-1 lead.

"It was a good match for us, they created a number of scoring chances, occupied the zone," Hitchcock said of the Berglund, Alex Steen and Andy McDonald line. "They did a great job on the power play when they were out there. I'm pretty happy with them."

The Sharks nearly tied it with eight minutes left but TJ Galiardi fanned on a one-timer with eight minutes left after taking a Torrey Mitchell feed. Scott Nichol got a stick on Dominic Moore's shot seconds later, as he couldn't lift the puck over Halak, who was sprawled on the ice.

But Desjardins tied the game with 5:16 remaining. Tommy Wingels beat Roman Polak off the left boards and fed the puck in front, where Desjardins slammed it through a screen and past Halak for a 2-2 game.

The goal really turned the tide of the game.

"We can talk about the goal, but the 13-14 minutes that they played for us was very valuable," McLellan said of the Desjardins, Wingels and Daniel Winnik line. "They played hard, played smart. Desi was really good in the faceoff circle. Tommy got some power play time and played a really important role on that line. When you get those two young guys playing together with a veteran like Daniel Winnik, you have a fourth line you can trust or third line, whatever they might be."
(Getty Images)
Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) makes a save in front of San Jose's Logan
Couture Thursday night. Halak stopped 31 shots but the Sharks took the
opener 3-2 in double overtime.

Added Hitchcock: "I think the goal that hurt us the most was the second one. It gave them a chance because we really had good control of the game."

Burns appeared to get away with a delay of game penalty in overtime -- he whacked the puck into the crowd, but the four officials conferred and determined it went off T.J. Oshie's stick. Television replays indicated that the puck went into the stands untouched.

Both teams had chances in the first overtime, but neither could score. Niemi was the busier of the two goalies, stopping all 14 shots he faced. Halak made eight stops.

The Blues had quality chances to win it in the first overtime but were off the mark or thwarted by Niemi.

"The message was to just keep going," Shattenkirk said. "I don't think we came out with the start that we wanted to there in the second overtime."

Added Steen: "It's unfortunate. It's Game 1. There's a lot of hockey left to be played.

"They get that one chance, and it's a good one and they take advantage. We can't let that happen. We'll regroup tomorrow and come back strong."

Said Hitchcock: "We did a lot of good things. It's hard to complain about the effort but you're disappointed in the effort on the OT goal."

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