-By Mary Walsh
Friday night, the San Jose Sharks won a contentious preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes. Prospects Barclay Goodrow, Chris Tierney, Eriah Hayes and Mirco Mueller all played well, suggesting that any of them could end up starting the season in San Jose.
Goals from Matt Nieto, Tye McGinn and Tommy Wingels gave the Sharks their third win of the preseason. Alex Stalock was in goal and made 23 saves on 24 shots. Rob Klinkhammer scored for the Coyotes, and Mike Smith made 31 saves on 33 shots faced.
Matt Nieto opened the game with an early goal, in his line’s first shift. Couture’s backhand pass went right to Nieto for a goal at 1:08 of the first period.
A few minutes later, Couture was hit from behind by Kyle Chipchura. Justin Braun took issue with that and fought Chipchura. Couture made his way to the bench under his own steam. Braun was given a two minute penalty for boarding, a five minute major for fighting and a ten minute misconduct. Chipchura received five minutes for fighting, five minutes for boarding, and a ten minute game misconduct. It came out to two minutes of five on five, followed by three minutes of five on four for the Sharks.
More than ten minutes went by in the first period without the Coyotes getting credit for a shot. In the same time, the Sharks had five. The hit and the fight seemed to turn the tide for the Coyotes in the minutes before the power play started. They had a couple of good chances but the Sharks defense held them off.
Right at the end of the power play, Matt Irwin was also hit hard, by Joe Vitale. No penalty was called.
The second period started out more evenly, with the shot clock registering almost equal (3-2) for the first five minutes. A shot from Eriah Hayes in the sixth minute lead the way for a Sharks charge. Despite a lost faceoff, the fourth line stirred things up in the offensive zone. A penalty to Rob Klinkhammer for goaltender interference tilted the ice back in the Sharks’ direction. A simultaneous hit by Vitale on Braun went unmentioned by officials.
The power play did not pay off for the Sharks.
After the power play expired, Tye McGinn and B.J. Crombeen fought right after the faceoff. While the game was contentious, it is not clear whether any particular incident led to the bout.
By the thirteen minute mark, the shots for the period were up to 10-3 Sharks.
Eriah Hayes hit Keith Yandle in front of the Coyotes net, and then attempted to fight him but Yandle declined. This raised the ire of the Coyotes and after the scrum was dispersed, Hayes went to the penalty box. A roughing minor to John Scott and an embellishment minor to Yandle took them out of play for two minutes as well. The Sharks killed the penalty off.
The last five minutes of the period saw the Coyotes pushing to tie the game, and getting their shots to the net. The Sharks were saved by the bell as the period ended with a pile of bodies in front of Alex Stalock and the Coyotes nipping at the puck.
The shot count for the period ended 11-8 for the Sharks.
Stalock faced some pressure from Shane Doan early in the third period but he was ready for it. The teams played a balanced game for the first five minutes, with some good chances but few sustained onslaughts from either side.
A handful of penalties came out of a mess along the boards at 6:55 of the second. Tommy Wingels went to the box for kneeing Michael Stone, while Brent Burns and Matt Smaby went with matching roughing minors. That brought the power play count even with two per team. Stone did stay in the game after some attention from the Coyotes trainer.
Barclay Goodrow and Chris Tierney got involved with a number of Coyotes after a hit by Goodrow on Hodgman. Tierney caught a punch but after some discussion, no penalty was called.
Seconds after the next faceoff, Joe Pavelski spotted McGinn’s stick in front of the net. Mike Smith had just made an impressive save but lost his stick in the process. Pavelski and McGinn took advantage of the situation to put the Sharks up 2-0. Assists went to Pavelski and Brent Burns.
A defensive zone pass from Mueller to Nieto went awry when Nieto lost his footing. Rob Klinkhammer took advantage of that and put the Coyotes on the board.
The period was not the Sharks’ most dominant, with the Coyotes finally nosing ahead on the shot clock. The Coyotes pulled their goaltender late to try for the tying goal, but Tommy Wingels put the game away in the last thirty seconds. A pass from Justin Braun found Pavelski near center ice, and Pavelski found Wingels in position to shoot at the empty net.
The final shot count was 34-24 Sharks.
The absence of Nikolay Goldobin from the last two games suggests that he may not crack the roster to open the season. Still, his performance thus far suggests that he will be in the NHL sooner than later. His linemates, however, are looking more ready by the day. Barclay Goodrow and Chris Tierney were on a line with Tommy Wingels in the Arizona game, and one of them could very well push out a more seasoned player for the early part of the season. They have kept pace and made good plays in all of their preseason appearances.
Eriah Hayes used Friday’s game to make a good argument against him being pushed out. With hard work in the corners, four hits, and two blocked shots, he made the most of his spot on the fourth line with Adam Burish and John Scott.
At the start of camp, many expected Matt Tennyson to be kept in San Jose as the seventh defenseman. That did not come to fruition, and he has (for now) been assigned to the Sharks’ AHL team in Worcester. At the moment it looks like Mirco Mueller could well open the season in San Jose. The Sharks’ new radio team made particular mention of how Mueller knocked Rob Klinkhammer down, in a game that started off with a lot of physicality. The 19 year old Mueller does not appear intimidated by the NHL preseason. He did make an error in the first period that had his goalie scrambling a bit but on balance he played a very smart game. He also acquitted himself well on the penalty kill.
It is still possible that Taylor Doherty of Taylor Fedun will stay, but Mueller is certainly making a good case for himself.
The Sharks’ lines were as follows in Arizona:
Forward lines: Goodrow-Wingels-Tierney/McGinn-Pavelski-Hertl/Marleau-Couture-Nieto/Hayes-Burish-Scott
Defensive pairs: Demers-Irwin /Braun-Vlasic /Mueller- Burns
Stalock in goal
The Sharks will play their final game of the preseason on Saturday, against the Ducks in Anaheim.