ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues
coach Ken Hitchcock certainly knows a thing or two about San Jose Sharks
winger Martin Havlat
Hitchcock saw plenty of Havlat when the Czech Republic native was breaking into the NHL with the Ottawa Senators
. Hitchcock was coaching the Philadelphia Flyers
at the time and saw a high-flying skater with big-time scoring punch.
He retouched on those points earlier in the week leading up to the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Blues and Sharks.
"I've coached against Havlat where he was the best player in every game ... it wasn't even close," Hitchcock said. "He was better than [Marian] Hossa. So I know what he can do."
Those points came to fruition Thursday night. Havlat became a thorn in Hitchcock and the Blues' side with two goals, including the game-winner in the second overtime of a 3-2 victory by San Jose, giving the seventh-seeded Sharks a 1-0 series lead.
Havlat came into the game with 28 points [12 goals, 16 assists] in his last 26 playoff games. After a tumultuous time in Minnesota, he was acquired by the Sharks before the season for this very purpose.
"Marty's a goal scorer," teammate Ryane Clowe
said. "Goal scorers find ways."
Havlat found a way to open the scoring for San Jose, then ended it by taking a Clowe backhand feed and one-timing a shot from the high slot past Jaroslav Halak
for the third playoff overtime goal of his career.
"I'm just trying to enjoy the time in the playoffs," said the 30-year-old Havlat, who has 21 goals and 51 points in 68 career playoff games. "I'm just trying to do my best and help my team. I think everybody else is trying to do the same thing."
Said Sharks coach Todd McLellan
: "He has that reputation [of a clutch performer]. That's one of the reasons why he was acquired.
"We're very lucky that he had the type of game that he had."
It's been a tough year for Havlat, who is playing for his fourth NHL team. He missed four games at the start of the season because of offseason shoulder surgery, then missed 39 more games in the middle of the season after suffering a freak hamstring injury. He finished with a career-low seven goals and had 27 points in 39 games.
The Sharks were certainly a better team with Havlat in the lineup, going 25-11-3 with him in the lineup, 18-18-7 without him.
Havlat dressed for the final 13 games and was productive leading into the postseason, finishing with five goals and 12 points.
"It had to be taxing on him," McLellan said of Havlat. "You have to remember that he's only played 13-14 games returning from his injury. To go 4 1/2 periods -- give him credit. He managed himself well."
Sharks captain Joe Thornton
called Thursday's game by Havlat "a big performance from a big-time player."
Now, with Havlat in the top-six mix for a deep and talented Sharks forward crop, San Jose becomes even more dangerous. For a team that reached the conference finals the last two seasons, that only bodes well moving forward.
"I'm just happy that I could be back before the end of the regular season and help the boys in the hunt for the playoffs," Havlat said. "Now I've played a few games before [the playoffs] and I'm happy for that.
"I got to know the boys a little more on the ice. I was ready for the first game. Now that we've made the playoffs, I'm excited to be in the playoffs."