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Havlat's OT goal helps Sharks steal opener in St. Louis

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- Martin Havlat made up for lost time on Thursday night.

The San Jose winger scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner 3:34 into the second overtime, to lead the Sharks to a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in the opening game of the Western Conference quarterfinal series at the Scottrade Center.

Havlat, who missed 39 games during the regular season with a left hamstring injury, converted off nifty passes from Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture to allow the seventh-seeded Sharks to strike first in the best-of-seven series.

The Blues' last playoff win was a 4-1 triumph over San Jose in Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinal on April 12, 2004.

Havlat, 30, was sidelined from Dec. 21 to March 15 following surgery to repair his torn hamstring. He scored five goals during the last 13 games of the regular season and is just rounding back into shape.

"I'm just happy that I can be back," Havlat said. "I'm primed for the playoffs."

Havlat, who has 29 points in his last 30 playoff games, slapped a rolling puck past St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak from the slot.

"I was just trying to get it toward the net, and it went through and it went in," Havlat said. "It was a great play by (Couture) and Clowie in getting me the puck.

"It was a great feeling."

Havlat has 21 career postseason goals in seven seasons of playoff action.

St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said his team had several chances to move the puck prior to Havlat's game-winning tally.

"There were a lot of errors on that goal. We had it cleared several times," Hitchcock said. "So disappointing. I thought we played a pretty good game -- but that's the playoffs."

San Jose goalie Antti Niemi made 40 saves and continued his playoff magic. He led the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in 2010.

"I felt good finding the puck, and that's a huge key," Niemi said.

Niemi was at his best in the first overtime when the Blues outshot San Jose 14-8. He made several saves, including a masterful glove stop on a shot by defenseman Barret Jackman.

"They were able to keep the puck in our zone most of the time," Niemi said, "but it worked out well."

Halak recorded 31 saves but fell to 9-11 in postseason play. Two years ago, Halak led the Montreal Canadiens to a pair of series upsets over the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Havlat gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 6:02 of the second period. He deflected a wrist shot from Dan Boyle.

St. Louis winger Patrik Berglund pushed the Blues in front 2-1 with a pair of goals in a span of 6:37 in the third period. In his fifth playoff game, Berglund whistled a shot past Niemi at 7:28 of the third period to give the Blues their first lead of the night. Andy McDonald set up the goal with a picture-perfect drop pass.

San Jose center Andrew Desjardins tied the game with 5:16 left in regulation. Known more for his physical play, Desjardins converted from the slot on a pass from Tommy Wingels. Desjardins had just four goals in 76 games during the regular season.

Niemi made 20 saves over the first two periods. He robbed Alex Pietrangelo from close range on a power-play attempt with 2:50 left in the second period. Alex Steen hit the post on a short-handed attempt just under two minutes earlier.

St. Louis won all four regular-season meetings between the teams with an 11-3 scoring advantage. The Blues recorded a pair of shutouts at home.

Halak, who closed the regular season on a 10-2-2 run, made a nifty glove stop on Desjardins in the opening frame.

Game 2 is set for Saturday night in St. Louis, and Berglund said the Blues would bounce back.

"We still have a lot of confidence," he said. "We still believe in these guys. We'll regroup and see if we can do better on Saturday."

NOTES: San Jose is making its eighth successive playoff appearance. .... St. Louis was the first team to clinch a postseason spot this season. The Sharks were the last. ... Ken Hitchcock is 43-16-11 since taking over for Davis Payne on Nov. 8, 2011. ... Entering the series, players on the San Jose roster had totaled 1,041 playoff games, St. Louis 432. ... Boyle played a game-high 35:10 on Thursday. .... St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk led all players with 11 shots on goal. ... St. Louis compiled an NHL-best 30-6-5 home record during the regular season.
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