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Havlat's hat trick powers Sharks past Avalanche

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE, Calif . -- When the Colorado Avalanche beat the San Jose Sharks at Pepsi Center on March 29, they clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Marty Havlat and the Sharks made sure Friday night that Colorado didn't celebrate a Central Division championship on their home ice at SAP Center.

Havlat had his sixth career hat trick, Alex Stalock made 32 saves, and the Sharks defeated the Avalanche 5-1 in a battle between Western Conference teams headed for the playoffs.

Colorado could have clinched the Central Division title with a victory after the St. Louis Blues lost 3-0 to the Dallas Stars earlier Friday. The Avalanche and Blues remained tied atop the Central with 111 points, but Colorado owns the tiebreaker. Colorado will play its final regular-season game Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. St. Louis plays its final game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Colorado trails Anaheim by one point in the race to finish with the Western Conference's best record, but the Ducks have a game in hand.

"The opportunity was in front of us," Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson said. "As tough as it was to give this one up on a back-to-back, we still control our own fate. That's a good position to be in."

The Sharks were already locked into a second-place finish in the Pacific Division and a first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings. They had little to play for other than building some momentum for the playoffs and giving their fans a treat in their final regular-season home game.

"There were some big hits thrown," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "This game meant a lot to those guys over there. They were trying to get first in the West. They're fighting. It was a good intense game, and we're going to see a lot more of that come next week."

Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau also scored for the Sharks.

Colorado's Patrick Bordeleau cut San Jose's lead to 2-1 with a goal at 15:18 of the second period, but Havlat scored three straight goals in the third for his first hat trick as a Shark. His last hat trick came Nov. 2, 2005, as an Ottawa Senator against the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's been a while," Havlat said. "But the thing that was most important was the way we played and that we finished on a winning note."

Havlat was a healthy scratch Wednesday when the Sharks lost 5-2 at Anaheim, ending their hopes of winning the Pacific Division. He returned to the lineup against Colorado, skating on the second line with Logan Couture and Marleau.

"Very good response," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He responded well and not just the goals. It was the way he carried himself on the ice, the way he competed nose over the puck and battled. I thought that line was our best line tonight and he was a big part of it."

Havlat extended San Jose's lead to 3-1 at 5:26 of the third, redirecting a shot from Couture past Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Havlat scored again with 6:20 left to play, ramming in a rebound after Giguere stopped his shot on a breakaway, then completed his natural hat trick by scoring an empty-net goal with 4:56 remaining

Colorado coach Patrick Roy's decision to start No. 3 goaltender Reto Berra and rest Semyon Varlamov and Giguere quickly backfired. The Sharks grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals by Boyle and Marleau, and Roy benched Berra for Giguere 10:11 into the game. Berra allowed two goals on five shots.

Berra had started once since coming to Colorado in a March 5 trade from the Calgary Flames; he gave up five goals on 27 shots on March 19 in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

"I have no regret starting him," Roy said. "None at all. It was a decision that was planned. The only reason I pulled him was to just to change the momentum of the game. I thought that was the right decision at that time. Obviously right now he's not playing with a whole lot of confidence that he normally has. A team is a team. We play together here. We stick together. I was very happy to give him the chance to play. And then (Giguere) came in and played well for us."

Boyle gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 3:01 of the first, ripping a shot from the right circle that beat Berra to the far side. The goal was Boyle's 12th of the season and fourth in seven games.

Marleau made it 2-0 at 10:11 with his 33rd goal of the season. Colorado center Paul Stastny turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Havlat quickly passed it to Marleau, who turned on the speed and elevated a shot from the slot that sailed over Berra's shoulder and into the net.

Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl was in the lineup for the first time since injuring his right knee against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 19 and played a solid game. Hertl, who underwent surgery on Dec. 31, ripped a shot from the left circle 1:35 into the game that Berra grabbed. Early in the third, Hertl won a battle for the puck along the right boards, drove to the net and fired a shot from the crease that deflected hard off of Giguere. He got a boarding penalty late in the third.

"The knee is OK," Hertl said. "It's [been] a long time. A little bit tired. I think tomorrow I'll play much better," he added, looking ahead to the Sharks' regular-season finale on the road against the Phoenix Coyotes. "

McLellan said Hertl played "a little bit better" than he expected.

"The real test will be tomorrow back to back and how he feels in the morning," McLellan said. "He made some good plays along the boards. I thought he settled in. His very first shift he comes down and takes a shot on goal. That had to make him feel good. You couldn't draw it up any better than that. He's involved in the scoring chances right off the bat. I'm sure when he came back to the bench he felt confident and like he belonged again."

Each team suffered an injury during a hard-hitting first period. Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie took a big hit from Sharks defenseman Jason Demers midway through the first and skated off slowly; he returned to the ice later in the period but did not play in the final two periods because of an upper-body injury.

"We'll see how he goes in the next several days," Roy said.

Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan took an elbow to the head from Bordeleau late in the first and did not return. He has an upper-body injury and didn't travel with the team to Phoenix.

Colorado cut San Jose's lead in half in the second period on Bordeleau's sixth goal of the season. Maxime Talbot zipped a cross-ice pass to a hard-charging Bordeleau, who beat Stalock from just to the right of the crease.

Avalanche forward PA Parenteau, who returned to the lineup after missing 15 games with a knee injury, went to the penalty box for high-sticking Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart at 15:35 of the second. The Avalanche killed that penalty, and Parenteau had a breakaway after leaving the box and taking a long pass, but Stalock made a huge pad save.

McLellan hasn't announced his goaltender for Game 1 against the Kings -- either Antti Niemi or Stalock -- but Stalock certainly made a strong case for himself.

"He didn't make a statement tonight. He's made it all year," McLellan said. "Tonight he just added to it. He made some very good saves. One thing is that he's so good with the puck that he helps our d-men out a lot. He's capable of moving it up. A very good night for him again. ... We think we have two goaltenders who can play. We'll be prepared to use both of them if we need to."

Stalock took the loss the last time San Jose played Colorado but avenged that defeat Friday.

"Last time against them it wasn't the greatest outing, and I needed to have a bounce back, and it was good to see them again," he said. "They were fresh in my mind. It was a good team to come back and get a chance to play against."

Colorado forward John Mitchell was scratched because of reported headaches and a possible concussion.

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