SAN JOSE, Calif. - Marty Havlat responded to a benching with his most productive game in years.
Havlat scored three goals for the first time in nearly nine years, and the San Jose Sharks prevented Colorado from clinching the Central Division title with a 5-1 victory over the Avalanche on Friday night.
Two nights after being scratched in a division showdown against Anaheim, Havlat made the most of his chances on a line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau as he made his case to be a playoff regular.
"He's one of those guys that has had a challenging season," defenceman Dan Boyle said. "He's here to score goals, and we're going to need him in the playoffs to do that. Hopefully something like this can propel him to bigger and better things. I was certainly excited and glad for him."
Boyle and Marleau also scored, and Alex Stalock made 32 saves for the Sharks, who are locked into second place in the Pacific Division and will open the playoffs at home against Los Angeles next week.
Patrick Bordeleau scored the lone goal for the Avalanche, who lost for the first time in regulation since March 21 against Boston. Colorado had gone 8-0-1 in its last nine games to move into a tie for first with St. Louis.
The Avalanche can win the division either by beating Anaheim on Sunday night in the regular-season finale or with a regulation loss by St. Louis earlier Sunday against Detroit.
"The opportunity was in front of us," defenceman Erik Johnson said. "There's redemption we still kind of control our own fate so 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."
Colorado needs the Ducks to lose Saturday in Los Angeles to have a chance of finishing in the top spot in the Western Conference.
Despite the significant stakes in the game for Colorado, Avalanche coach Patrick Roy opted to give third-string goalie Reto Berra his second start since joining the team last month. The move backfired quickly as Berra allowed two goals on the first five shots he faced and was replaced by Jean-Sebastien Giguere just 10:11 into the game.
"I have no regret starting him. None at all," Roy said. "It was a decision that was planned. The only reason I pulled him was to just change the momentum of the game. I thought that was the right decision at that time."
The Avalanche got on the board late in the second when Bracken Kearns failed to clear the puck from the defensive zone, leading to a 2-on-1 down low. Maxime Talbot slid a pass to Bordeleau, who shot a one-timer into the empty net.
Colorado nearly tied it after killing a high-sticking penalty to P.A. Parenteau. But Stalock stopped Parenteau on a breakaway just after he left the penalty box.
Havlat sealed the game with three goals in the third for his sixth career hat trick and first since Nov. 2, 2005, for Ottawa at Buffalo. Havlat scored on a deflection, a breakaway and then added an empty-net goal with 4:56 to play as he shined on the line he played with late last season before getting hurt in the playoffs.
"We didn't play that much this year together, but tonight it clicked the way it's supposed to," Havlat said. "They're both great players. It was nice to play with them."
The game was also notable for the Sharks because rookie Tomas Hertl returned to the ice for the first time since a knee injury in December. Hertl got a loud ovation his first time on the ice, and he generated a few good scoring chances.
"Tomas was actually a little bit better than I thought he might be," coach Todd McLellan said. "The real test will be tomorrow back to back and how he feels in the morning."
Both teams also lost defencemen to injuries during the game with San Jose's Scott Hannan not returning after being hit high by Bordeleau in the first period. Hannan will not travel to Phoenix with the team for Saturday's finale but McLellan didn't believe the injury was serious.
Colorado's Tyson Barrie was also hit high in the first by Jason Demers. Barrie stayed in the game for the rest of the period but didn't play after that because of an upper-body injury.
NOTES: Parenteau (knee) returned to the lineup after missing 15 games. ... Sharks D Marc-Edouard Vlasic sat out to rest for the playoffs.