SAN JOSE, Calif. • When his club was blitzed with a rash of injuries at forward, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock insisted that Vladimir Sobotka could help fill the void offensively.
With Sobotka accounting for just 16 goals in 161 games with the organization prior to Saturday’s matchup with San Jose, some shook their head at Hitchcock’s suggestion. Even if he believed it, Hitchcock probably didn’t envision this type of explosion.
A hat-trick from Sobotka, goals Nos. 4-5-6 in his last five games, allowed the Blues to claw back from a two-goal deficit and find their way to overtime. In OT, a familiar source of offense surfaced, when Patrik Berglund tipped in a shot by Barret Jackman for the game-winning goal in a 4-3 victory.
“I don’t even know how to describe this feeling,” Sobotka said. “I’m so happy we got two points tonight. It’s very important to get the two points every game.”
Understated sure, but as the Blues get set for the second half of the 48-game regular-season schedule Sunday in Anaheim, posting back-to-back wins for the first time since mid-February is the traction the club has been seeking.
The news was good afterwards, too. Forward T.J. Oshie, who left briefly in the second period with a shoulder or arm injury, had tests taken after the game and the results were negative.
“We’ve got half the season left and we’re getting there now,” Berglund said. “It’s a different feeling. It’s a different bench, a lot more positive. We’re pushing each other, we’re supporting each other ... everything that makes a team successful.”
Berglund’s OT goal was his team-leading 12th of the season, and avenging a 2-1 loss to the Sharks on Feb. 19 in St. Louis, goalie Jake Allen made 22 saves to improve to 5-1. His five victories all have come on the road.
The Sharks entered Saturday’s game with a 7-1-3 record at HP Pavillion with the regulation loss coming against Chicago on Feb. 5.
The Blues took control 4 minutes, 51 seconds into the game on Sobotka’s fifth goal of the season for a 1-0 lead. Scoring for the third consecutive game, Sobotka put back a rebound after a shot by defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who picked up his 16th assist.
But San Jose tied the score 1-1 on a goal Logan Couture with 4:41 left in the period. Curling the corner, the Sharks’ Tommy Wingels beat Jackman to the net. After a save by Allen, the puck went off the skate of Alex Pietrangelo and lay free, allowing Couture to pounce.
In the second period, San Jose’s Joe Thornton was whistled for boarding on Blues defenseman Kris Russell. The Blues came up dry on the power play and then the Sharks opened a lead on Scott Gomez’s second goal of the season. Allen couldn’t catch a blast by James Sheppard, and on a rebound, Gomez put the Sharks ahead 2-1 with 12:15 left in the middle frame.
The Blues had quality offensive zone time, but couldn’t bury their chances. Oshie missed an open look, as did Berglund, on a day when the team posted 35 shots but misfired on 14.
The missed opportunities caught up to the Blues. San Jose went on the power play after David Perron fell on top of Antti Niemi for goaltender interference. The Sharks had converted just five of their last 70 power plays, but with 3:29 to go in the second period, Matt Irwin’s man-advantage goal handed the Sharks a 3-1 lead.
“I said, ‘Look, it’s 3-1, we shouldn’t be down 3-1, but we are ... we’ve just got to keep going,’” he said. “I said, ‘If we get one (goal), we’re going to get them on their heels.’”
Enter Sobotka again. Already with one goal in the game, the Czech Republic native put a shot upstairs on Niemi that pulled the Blues to within 3-2 just 4:18 into the third period.
Less than a minute later, the Blues went on a power play. Chris Stewart put his big frame to work, screening Niemi, while Sobotka put another innocent shot on net. The puck leaked through Niemi’s pads.
“I saw ‘Stewy’ in the front of the net and I shot it actually for the tip,” Sobotka said. “Stewy was a great screen and it went in.”
Sobotka’s third goal of the game made him the first Blue since Jay McClement in 2010 to record the hat-trick.
“He plays a different role when he plays in Europe,” Hitchcock said. “He doesn’t play the checking role that he does in the National Hockey League. He quarterbacks the power play, he plays on the top line … he knows how to play. Because of the situation we’re in, he’s learned to play with more patience now and maybe it’s made him a better player. But he’s a gifted offensive player.”
After Sobotka’s third goal, Niemi was replaced by backup Alex Stalock. Each team had a power play late in the third period, but couldn’t convert, sending the game into overtime. In OT, Berglund parked himself in front of the net and got a piece of Jackman’s shot.
“I had no idea that I actually tipped it in,” Berglund said. “I had (Dan) Boyle on my side, so I didn’t really see. I looked back and it’s in the back of the net. Big excitement obviously. Good things happen when you shoot the puck and we really showed that today.”