SAN JOSE, Calif. – Vladimir Sobotka’s transition from a left wing in Europe to a part-time centre for the St. Louis Blues hasn’t always gone smoothly.
It is starting to pay dividends now.
Sobotka continued his recent scoring surge and recorded his first career hat trick as St. Louis rallied from two goals down in the third period and beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Saturday.
Patrik Berglund won it with an overtime goal.
Sobotka has scored at least one goal in three straight games after netting only two in the Blues’ first 21 games.
“He’s a gifted offensive player that found a new role when he came to North America,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “It’s a typical example of a player that gets pigeon-holed into a role. He knows what he’s doing. He knows where the screen is. He’s a smart player.”
Berglund’s team-leading 12th goal came 1:12 into overtime after Sobotka scored twice in the third to erase the Blues’ 3-1 deficit.
Jake Allen made 22 saves for St. Louis after getting knocked around early, but it was San Jose’s goalie situation that was the difference.
Antti Niemi made 25 saves, but was pulled with 14:22 left in third after allowing Sobotka’s second goal in an 80-second span.
“You could feel our team sag at that point,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We needed to do something. We had two options, we could pull the goalie or we could call timeout. We pulled the goalie.”
Alex Stalock was called up from the minors before the game because regular backup Thomas Greiss was shaken up in Calgary on Wednesday. He was quickly pressed into action to replace Niemi and stopped six shots until Berglund delivered his second winning goal of the season.
Sobotka seemed more impressed with the Blues’ win than he was with his first NHL hat trick.
“It felt great but it’s better to score two points,” Sobotka said. “That’s really important for us because we need it. My first hat trick, I don’t know how to describe it, but it feels great.”
Scott Gomez had a goal and assist for San Jose, which has lost nine of 11 against St. Louis.
The Sharks built a 3-1 lead after goals by Gomez and Matt Irwin in the second. Irwin’s goal came on the power play, an encouraging sign for the Sharks, who have struggled in man-advantage situations this year.
Allen didn’t allow anything after that, stopping five shots in the third and one in overtime.
It was St. Louis’ fifth straight win at the Shark Tank.
The Blues came into the game tied for the NHL lead in first-period goals and added to their total when Sobotka pushed a rebound past Niemi at 4:51 after Niemi stopped Kevin Shattenkirk’s shot from just inside the blue line. Shattenkirk finished with two assists.
San Jose, which got off to a slow start, tied it 10 minutes later on Logan Couture’s ninth goal. Couture scored after Tommy Wingels’ shot ricocheted off Allen’s chest and then glanced off the skates of Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo in front.
The Sharks caught another break later in the period when Gomez scored to give San Jose a 2-1 lead. Allen had stopped James Sheppard’s shot, but the puck deflected off the skate of San Jose’s Ryan Clowe to Gomez.
Irwin made it 3-1 after the Blues’ David Perron was called for goalie interference. Gomez and Justin Braun assisted.
Sobotka cut the gap to 3-2 early in the third and tied it 80 seconds later with a power-play goal.
After Niemi was pulled, Stalock stopped Chris Porter’s shot with 10:46 left in regulation. He made five other saves but couldn’t stop Berglund, who deflected Barret Jackman’s shot past the Sharks’ rookie goalie.
“You’re up 3-1 going into the third, it’s time to step on the throat, and game over,” San Jose captain Joe Thornton said. “In the OT we just didn’t contain sticks, and (Berglund) got a tip on it. To let it slip like that is disappointing.”
Notes: Shattenkirk left the ice in the second period after getting hit in the side of the head by an errant shot. … Wingels was activated from the injured list before the game. He had missed five games after crashing headfirst into the boards against Dallas on Feb. 23. … San Jose also recalled F Matt Pelech from Worcester of the AHL, reassigned G Thomas Heemskerk to Worcester, and placed F Marty Havlat on the injured list.