Havlat a scorer through and through


Havlat a scorer through and through

St. Louis -- Martin Havlat knew when he came off the ice Thursday night that there would be the traditional Skype session back at the hotel. Two goals in San Joses double-overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues including the game-winner, a bad penalty that almost cost the Fins the game in regulation it was a busy night, and it would be reduced to sub-atomic level in the nightly chat-up with his father Slava back in the Czech Republic.

Oh, yes, we talked about the win, Havlat said Friday. And we talked about the Blues. He likes the way they play.

REWIND: Sharks take Game 1 on Havlat's OT goal

Slava Havlat is, as you might have deduced from that sentence, a coach. Well, a former coach, anyway. He is 81 now, and watched his sons latest playoff triumph with that jewelers eye only a coach possesses. Fathers see one player. Coaches see the field of play.

We talk after most of the games, Havlat said. Its nine hours ahead, so on the West Coast the games start at 4:30 a.m., so he doesnt see all of them. But last night he watched, and then we talked, and then he went back to bed.

RATTO: Sharks' Havlat remains a playoff rainmaker

Slava Havlat played defense in his hockey days, and a goaltender in team handball. His son played tennis and soccer as well as hockey, and holds fast to his favorite soccer teams, Arsenal (with the Czech star Tomas Rosicky) and Barcelona (with the redoubtable Lionel Messi and about eight other of the best players in the world).

And Slava Havlat coached his son still does, in a sense. And his handiwork is on best display now, from the uniform number (9) they share to the sons gifts as a sniper. He has 30 points in his last 28 playoff games, and an ability to reduce each scoring opportunity down to portions of seconds as he did in the second overtime Thursday.

Hes a scorer, really, head coach Todd McLellan said. I saw a quote he gave where he said he had to wait for the puck to settle down, and thats something a scorer has. A non-scorer doesnt have that. He shoots as fast as he can. But a scorer will wait that extra moment . . . fractions of a second . . . because thats what scorers can do.

VIDEO: Havlat -- 'I just tried to get it on net and it went in

Indeed, between the time he received the pass from Ryane Clowe to the moment he felt defenseman Barrett Jackman closing on him and his little space became none, he got his puck to settle down and beat Jaroslav Halak with the game-winner. Fractions of a second.

And fractions of a second between when he saw Halak behind the net in the third period, decided he could not avoid contact, and took the penalty that led to St. Louis go-ahead goal by Patrik Berglund.

I didnt have a lot of time to change my course, he said. But I knew as soon as I touched him that it would be bad.

It was. He got pulled over for goalie interference, and while he was processing the shame, Berglund scored his second goal and gave the Blues the lead they typically hold with a falcons tenacity.

Only this time they didnt. Andrew Desjardins and Tommy Wingels combined to tie the game, and Havlat, who had scored the games first goal and has fresher legs based on having played 43 fewer than the rest of his mates because of a hamstring injury, had the legs at games end to find that space and do what McLellan likes to call getting there on time. Great scorers do that. They used to say that about Brett Hull. Scorers just have that.

And Martin Havlat is a scorer, especially now, when the chips are in the middle of the table and the turn becomes the river. Back in the Czech Republic, his father is proud.

And given the hour, he is also tired. There are a lot of games left before his sleep patterns regain normalcy.

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.