SHARKS at BLUES
(San Jose leads best-of-seven series, 1-0)
TV: CNBC, TSN, RDSI, CSN-CA (HD), FS-MW (HD)
Big Story: Martin Havlat's resurgence which started down the stretch continued into Game 1 of this series, and the Sharks drew first blood with a 3-2 win in the first double overtime game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. San Jose got the monkey off its back of not having beaten St. Louis all season, and now tries to take a commanding 2-0 lead back home to HP Pavilion.
On the Blues' side, coach Ken Hitchcock announced after Friday's optional skate he would come back with Jaroslav Halak as his starter. There was nothing wrong with Halak's performance on Thursday -- he stopped 31 of 33 shots before Havlat beat him 3:34 into the second extra period. But at the same time, with the NHL's top regular-season goalie in terms of goals-against average (1.56) and save percentage (.940) available in Brian Elliott, there was at least the option for Hitchcock to change things up.
Sharks: Regular season and playoffs can be two totally different animals, and San Jose proved that by scoring as many goals against St. Louis in Game 1 as it had managed in their four prior matchups. Havlat, whose season was marred by inconsistency and injury until he put together a hot stretch after returning to the lineup on March 15, opened the scoring on a power-play goal in the second period. But after the Blues struck for a pair in the third to take the lead, the biggest goal of the night came courtesy of a guy who only had four during the regular season. Andrew Desjardins converted a feed from Tommy Wingels with 5:16 remaining, sending the game into overtime where Havlat eventually beat Halak from the high slot for the winner.
"We can talk about the goal, but the 13-14 minutes that they played for us was very valuable," coach Todd McLellan said of the Desjardins-Wingels-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."
Blues: Once again, St. Louis will aim for the franchise's first playoff victory since April 12, 2004, also against San Jose. That win came in Game 3 with the Blues already down 2-0 in the series, a hole they're not interested in facing as the series shifts to California. In the end, their Game 1 loss came largely due to their inability to solve Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, who stopped them on 40 of 42 shots, including all 14 in the first overtime. Patrik Berglund was the only one to celebrate beating Niemi, first on a redirection of a Kevin Shattenkirk shot 54 seconds into the third to pull San Jose even, then on a power play at 7:28 to temporarily put the Sharks in front.
"We'll be fine," Berglund said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We played some good hockey tonight. We still have a lot of confidence. We had a lot of chances to win this game. We just have to keep going at it. There's a lot of games to go."
Who's Hot: Havlat, who finished the regular season on a four-game points streak (1-4-5), now has 29 points in his last 29 playoff games. Ryane Clowe and Dan Boyle each chipped in a pair of assists in the Sharks' opening win. Niemi has allowed two goals or fewer in seven of eight starts dating back to March 26. … Berglund's goals were his first points in his fifth career playoff game for the Blues.
Injury Report: San Jose defenseman Colin White missed Game 1 with an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day. … Elliott, who had been nursing an upper-body injury, dressed as Halak's backup in the opener. St. Louis defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo has been battling an illness that has kept him out of the last two games.
Stat Pack: Each team went 1-for-3 on the power play Thursday. During the regular-season series, the Blues had the advantage when up a man, going 5-for-19 while the Sharks were just 1-for-15 over four games. When they were swept by the Canucks in their last playoff appearance in 2009, the Blues were just 1-for-24 in the series.
Puck Drop: Just like San Jose cleared a mental hurdle in Game 1 by breaking through against the Central Division champs, St. Louis must now secure that critical first win in the series so the specter of another sweep isn't hanging over to the club as it heads to the Bay Area.
"There's not much to say," forward Alex Steen said in the Post-Dispatch after Thursday's defeat. "It is what it is right now. Game 1. It's a long series. We knew coming in that it was going to be a long series. It's two tough teams, intense teams, fun buildings, so it's going to be a fun series."
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