Sharks overcome by the Blues in OT loss

HP PAVILION — Given that the shortened NHL season is only 48 games, every goal a team can score is magnified in importance, hopefully resulting in the points needed to make the playoffs.

Unfortunately, the Sharks couldn’t keep it up for 60 minutes. The St. Louis Blues — down 3-1 — scored three unanswered goals to come back and beat San Jose 4-3 in overtime.

Vladimir Sobotka scored his first career hat trick for St. Louis, which has now beaten the Sharks five straight times at The Tank.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock

“These are two teams that are very close. There is very little difference between the two teams. I think we’re both trying to forge new identities. We’ve both got lots of different new players, and I like the way we’re playing 5-on-5 right now. If we can continue to build on this, this gives us  chance to be a very competitive team in the west.”

Saturday’s game was probably one of the most disappointing losses of the season, given the Sharks have had so much difficultly scoring goals of late.

And when you account for the fact that the Blues, Kings, Sharks, and Stars were all tied with 26 points entering the game for the final three playoff spots — well, that just adds insult to injury.

Antti Niemi has overwhelmingly been the MVP of the team — but not on Saturday. Niemi gave up two goals to Sobotka in a 1:20 span of the third period and was pulled for Alex Stalock, just called up from Worchester.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan

“I thought he was off his angle two goals in a row. You could feel our team sag at that point and we needed to do something. We had two options: we could pull the goalie or we could use a time out. He’s been our most valuable player to this point but tonight he struggled a little bit, and unfortunately we couldn’t pull him out.”

The Sharks did their best to put pressure on the Blues. Down 1-0, Logan Couture put Team Teal on the board after Tommy Wingels skated up the right wing from the point and directed the puck towards the net.

The puck went off the skate of Alex Pietrangelo, with Couture right on the doorstep to bang it in home for his 9th goal of the campaign.

Scott Gomez got his name on the scoresheet at 7:45 in the second when he lit the lamp off a rebound shot taken by Ryane Clowe.

But the prettiest goal had to be from rookie defenseman Matt Irwin who fired a blast from the point. The puck threaded its way into the back of the net, giving San Jose a 3-1 cushion late in the second period.

But hockey games are three periods long, and the final 20 minutes were a disaster.

The Sharks had 19 shots on goal through two periods and only six for the third period and overtime.

Niemi simply picked the wrong game to have a bad day in the net. After the Blues had tied the game, it was as if a balloon had popped and all the air went out of the building.

The Blues’ momentum carried into overtime. Just over a minute into the extra session, long-time nemesis Barrett Jackman took a shot from the left wing which Patrick Berglund tipped in for the game winner.

It was a tale of two dressing rooms after the game. St. Louis was the picture of jubilation, and the other — San Jose — was feeling as blue as a lonely hole- in -the- wall bar.

Sharks center Joe Thornton

“You know you’re up 3-1 going into the third, it’s time to step on their throat and it’s game over but it was a weird one there to get the second (goal) and a weird third one and in the OT we just didn’t contain sticks and they got a tip on it. So it’s one of those games where we just let it slip and we can’t let it happen.”

Notes

Stalock made his second career NHL appearance. His NHL debut was February 1, 2011 against Phoenix at HP Pavilion. … Forward Tommy Wingels was activated from the injured list. He had missed five games after crashing headfirst into the boards against Dallas on Feb. 23. … The Sharks also recalled F Matt Pelech from the AHL Worcester Sharks, reassigned G Thomas Heemskerk to Worcester, and placed F Marty Havlat on the injured list.