Martin Havlat’s second goal of the game just 3:34 into the second overtime period lifted the San Jose Sharks to a hard fought 3-2 win over the heavily favored St Louis Blues in Game One of their first round playoff series at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Havlet’s goal came after the Sharks survived a first overtime period push by the Blues where Sharks goalie Antti Niemi had to be spot on and was with 14 saves. Niemi would make 40 saves in the game as the Blues pressured the Sharks in their defensive zones early and often throughout the contest. Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak proved to be tough in goal himself making 31 saves for the evening as he denied team teal on a good number of scoring chances. With the win the Sharks grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series. The series moves on to Game Two on Saturday in the Gateway City with the Sharks having a chance to put the Blues in a bigger hole before returning home to the Shark Tank this coming Monday Night.
The overtime periods were made possible thanks to a Andrew Desjardins’ goal with 5:16 remaining in the third period to give the Sharks a 2-2 tie. Team teal had fallen behind as the Blues scored twice in the third period on goals from Patrik Berglund, the second of which was a power play goal. After a scoreless first period, it was Havlet who would give the Sharks the 1-0 lead on a power play goal when he tipped in a Dan Boyle shot with 13:58 remaining in the second period. The goal also snapped team teal’s scoreless streak of 163:58 in St Louis if you factor in two regular season games (which will not be mentioned here again).
Recapping Game One Sharks vs. Blues:
No Opening Spark- The first period for the Sharks offensively was a fairly quiet one as they would only manage four shots on goal. The Blues meanwhile got on the early attack as Vladimir Sobotka and Alex Pietrangelo would test Niemi. Roman Polak and Kevin Shattenkirk would later also test Niemi with no success as the Sharks net minder was more than ready. Meanwhile it took the Sharks almost 7 1/2 minutes to get their first shot on goal before Logan Couture finally got a puck on net at Halak. The Blues defense was very difficult for the Sharks to negotiate otherwise. The Blues even outhit the Sharks 10-9 in addition to out shooting team teal 7-4.
Finding a Rhythm- Team teal would get a better jump out of the blocks to start the second period challenging Halak with three shots from Dominic Moore, Brent Burns and Dan Boyle. About 4 1/2 minutes into the period the Blues’ David Perron would draw a slashing penalty giving the Sharks a power play opportunity. The Blues held serve for the first 95 seconds of the power play. With time winding down in the man advantage, Boyle from the point launched a hard slap shot that deflected off Havlet’s stick at the St Louis goal crease. Havlet’s tip in cleanly beat Halak to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.
Niemi versus Halak- Halak however would recover and become a big reason the Sharks would have a tough time depositing anymore rubber biscuits in the netting as he would make eight saves for the period. This would include a later point blank opportunity from Joe Pavelski who took a between the legs pass from Joe Thornton during another Sharks power play chance. The only Blues player on the ice to read this play was Halak, who was parked right in front of Pavelski’s stuff in attempt. Meanwhile Niemi was plenty busy on his side of the rink as the Blues would launch 13 more pucks his way. Again, Niemi stood tall in the saddle as the Blues level of play would become more aggressive as the period moved along. During the Sharks second power play opportunity of the period, Alex Steen would come close to giving St Louis a short handed goal as he was able to carry a loose puck into the Sharks defensive zone. Once in the team teal zone Steen drilled a laser shot that would beat Niemi but deflect off the cross bar back onto the ice.
Late in the period, TJ Galiardi was called for interference sending the Blues on a power play. Niemi faced his biggest challenge of the period here as Pietrangelo, Perron and Shattenkirk would all have good chances on the Sharks net. Niemi showed his playoff experience as he held up under the firestorm of chances the Blues tried to muster. However the Blues would be able to sustain the momentum and carry it forward into the third period.
Blue Light Special- The Blues took to the ice in the third period and got right down to business with their new found momentum. St Louis just need 54 seconds before Shattenkirk’s wrist shot from the right point would hit Berglund’s stick and deflect the puck past Niemi to tie the game 1-1. Later in the period Havlet would find himself being sent to the penalty box for a tripping penalty to give St Louis another power play and a chance to take the lead. The Blues would take advantage here after the Sharks were cut off at the pass on a short handed attempt. Andy McDonald would carry the puck back up the ice, where he would find Berglund in the slot and hit him with a perfect feed pass. Berglund would then launch a slaps shot from the slot that beat Niemi and gave the Blues a 2-1 lead. The only good news for the Sharks here was that they still had well over 12 minutes on the clock to do something about it.
Shark Jumping Back- The Sharks needing to regenerate some offensive might in the Blues defensive zone would catch a break when former Shark Kent Huskins would get called for hooking. Though the Sharks would manage a couple of shots on goal from Burns and Boyle, nothing much else would happen for team teal. Moments later Tommy Wingles would chase down a loose puck in the Blues defensive zone. Wingles would take the puck up towards Halak before feeding it to an on rushing Dejardens who got the biscuit right on the tape of his stick. Dejardens would drill a wrister that beat Halak to his left to tie the game with 5:16 remaining in regulation. The Sharks and Blues would battle to a draw for the remainder of the third period as the game would soon cross over into overtime. Burns would add a final shot on goal as time expired, with the puck just going barely wide left of the net at the buzzer sounded (had it gone in it would have counted).
Overtime Blues- The first overtime period was largely played on a seemingly tilted rink as about 80 percent of the play was in the Sharks defensive zone. Niemi here probably shined as well as at any point this season in playing arguably one of his better periods and at the right time for team teal. Niemi would make 14 saves as the Sharks had a difficult time keeping the puck out of their zone, and seldom having success clearing the rubber biscuit when they needed to. However, the Sharks as a team were able to hold it together despite the St Louis onslaught. The Blues got several good looks however team teal and Niemi gave up no goals, and this allowed the Sharks to extend the game and give themselves a chance.
This Is Why They Got Him- The second overtime period would last 3:34 and see the Sharks get all three shots on goal culminating with Havlet’s slap shot from the slot that beat Halak to give the Sharks the Game One victory. Havlet took a feed pass from Ryane Clowe before drilling his game winning slap shot. Havlet’s winner was his second score of the game. In games with Havlet this season, counting this game, the Sharks are now 15 games over .500. Without Havlet, team teal is barely a .500 team. Havlet is a proven difference maker who could turn out to be the Sharks “Ace in the Hole” for this playoff run. To put this in perspective, Havlet has as many goals already in these playoffs (though one game) as the player for whom he was traded for had in all of last year’s post season.
Game Analysis- Any game you can win on the road especially during the Stanley Cup Playoffs is huge. The Sharks who came into this series as the decided underdog were far more loose and did not panic in situations where the Blues seemingly had the upper hand. Niemi came up huge as his goal tending alone allowed the Sharks to stay in the game and have the opportunity to ultimately win it. Havlet’s heroics are huge as he has paid some early post season dividends. As a team, the Sharks played a very simple game and kept their composure as a team in an arena where the stakes are now much bigger. The Sharks had some good chances in the game once they got their ice legs underneath themselves, granted that maybe taking a period. In the overtime the Blues had some serious chances to win the game. In edition to Niemi’s net minding, the Sharks had some success in flooding shooting lanes, making the Blues try to take alternate paths towards the Sharks goal.
It was a team effort that was required to win this game and that is exactly what the Sharks got in Game One. If the Sharks can use this win to their advantage and gain some strong confidence and continue to make each game a decent team effort though and though, the Sharks will certainly at least have a fighter’s chance against the Blues. There is a lot more hockey to be played here. The Sharks are off on the right foot, however this is just one game and their is a long way to go. The Sharks just need to keep and remained focused on the task at hand, it is a tall one. We will see what unfolds in Game Two Saturday. Based on tonight’s result, I would say this series is wide open right now…
GO SHARKS!!! LET’S GET GAME TWO AND BEAT THE BLUES AGAIN!!!
The King Shark
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