By JOSH DUBOW/AP Sports Writer
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – The San Jose Sharks have been waiting a long time to see what a healthy Marty Havlat could do for their lineup.
He’s back just in the nick of time to give the Sharks a needed playoff push.
Havlat scored his second goal of the game with 1:37 remaining in overtime to get the Sharks back into playoff position with a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
“It’s been a while since I scored,” said Havlat, whose last goal had been Dec. 17 before tearing his left hamstring later that game “It was a playoff game for us. We’re battling for a playoff spot right now. Every point we can get is very important.”
Havlat was stopped once by Jimmy Howard, and then after a scramble in front of the net, lifted the rebound over Howard to give the Sharks their first back-to-back victories since a three-game winning streak Jan. 24-Feb. 2.
Havlat returned from a 39-game absence from a hamstring injury Thursday and immediately boosted the second line.
“He’s such an important part of our hockey club,” coach Todd McLellan said. “And I don’t even think we realize yet how much of an impact he can have. He worked very hard when he was hurt. I think we were all anxious to get him back.”
He also scored late in the first for the Sharks, who moved into a tie for eighth place with Los Angeles in the Western Conference with a game in hand. San Jose is also only one point behind Dallas for the division lead with a game in hand.
Joe Pavelski also scored and Antti Niemi made 33 saves for the Sharks, who have seven points in their last four games following a five-game losing streak.
“It was a heck of a game,” McLellan said. “It feels like it’s late-March hockey right now. We’re going to have to keep playing tight games and try to find ways to win them.”
Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula scored for the Red Wings, who have lost four straight.
The Red Wings fell to 16-20-2 on the road this season and if they don’t fix those issues soon, might end up starting the playoffs away from home for a change. They lead Nashville by only two points for fourth place in the Western Conference.
“It was a better effort tonight, but not the start we wanted,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “We found a way to get back into the game and get it to overtime. We still have to get better.”
The two teams talked about being desperate coming into the game with the Sharks looking to get into playoff position and the Red Wings trying to find their stride heading into the postseason.
That was clearly evident on the ice as the teams that battled in the second round of the playoffs the past two seasons played with playoff-type intensity throughout an entertaining contest that was similar to the two series won by the Sharks the past two springs.
The Red Wings got the equalizer shortly after killing off a power play midway through the third period. After San Jose had trouble getting the puck out of its end, Filppula took control just outside the blue line, skated in and beat Niemi from the faceoff circle with a shot into the top of the net for his 23rd goal.
While the Red Wings got Datsyuk back after missing 11 games because of right knee surgery, they were far from full strength. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom is back home nursing an ankle injury and leading goal scorer Johan Franzen missed the game with back spasms.
Datsyuk did make an immediate impact, scoring off a seemingly impossible angle when he lifted the puck over Niemi from the bottom of the faceoff circle for his 17th goal with 1:14 left in the first period.
“He looked like a player who has been out but you know he’s going to get better,” coach Mike Babcock said. “That was a big deal for us to have him out there and give us some swagger.”
The goal came 23 seconds after Havlat got his first goal back from injury to give San Jose a 2-0 lead. Havlat beat Howard with a wrist shot while using Stuart as a screen for his third goal of the season.
The Sharks also scored on the game’s opening shift when Pavelski beat Howard for his career-high tying 25th goal just 48 seconds into the game.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)