By Mary Walsh
SAN JOSE–Saturday night, the Arizona Coyotes beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3. The game went to a shootout giving the Sharks one badly needed point but little else to celebrate. The game’s first and last goals were both scored by Antoine Vermette. The Coyotes’ Devan Dubnyk made 40 saves for the win. For the Sharks, Tommy Wingels, Andrew Desjardins and Joe Pavelski all scored to get the team to overtime.
The Sharks’ first goal of the game snapped a five game pointless streak and a ten game goalless streak for Tommy Wingels. It was an impressive short-handed goal to boot. After the game, Wingels said:
Our penalty kill gave one up early in the game so to get one back was important for us.
You’re not happy when you get scored on the penalty kill, and whether that makes you anticipate better or try harder, psychologically, I don’t know but Goody made a really good play. Both getting it out and on the rush so I just had a the easy job of putting it in.
Andrew Desjardins’ goal was his first of the season.
While many have said that practice is very important, so important that the lack of it may account for some of the Sharks’ recent losses, Todd McLellan did not think it important enough to sit a player who has never practiced with the team. After being traded to the Sharks for Jason Demers, Brenden Dillon arrived in time for the morning skate, but his gear did not. Despite not being able to participate in that practice, he was in Saturday’s game, paired with Brent Burns. Matt Irwin sat out.
The Arizona Coyotes have found ways to lose a lot of games this season. Sometimes they play very badly, other times they just draw the short luck straw. In any case, they quickly tumbled down the Pacific Division standings and have languished there through the first quarter of the season. All of that, next to the Sharks’ recent habit of losing to weak teams, did not bode well.
The Sharks gave up the first goal at 6:08 of the first period, to the Arizona Coyotes power play. The puck trickled out in front of Niemi and Antoine Vermette tapped it through the five hole. The Sharks seemed to have a serious communication failure there, as no one at all was defending Vermette as he loitered in the slot not far from the blue paint.
The Sharks also gave up the second goal, this one a shot from David Schlemko as he skated in fast enough to give himself a clear view of the net. It went just inside the post and out again, almost as if it did not want to rub the two goal lead in.
The Sharks did outshoot the Coyotes in the first, 11-7, despite the penalty. Still, none of those shots could beat Coyotes goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
The Sharks started the second period with some unconvincing play in the offensive zone. They were not very difficult for the Coyotes to push back out.
At 2:46, Andrew Desjardins went to the penalty box for tripping Tobias Rieder. A short-handed excursion quickly followed and gave the Sharks a draw in the Coyotes zone. After the draw, the Sharks again took control and after a couple more tours of the Coyotes’ end, Barclay Goodrow, Mirco Mueller and Tommy Wingels went in three on one to get the Sharks on the board. After such a lackluster start to the game, that brazen attack was certainly surprising.
Tommy Wingels also drew the Sharks’ first penalty, a holding call on Shane Doan at 11:34. The Sharks’ power play had a couple of good chances, most notably an opening for Brent Burns, but he hooked the puck up into the netting and out of play.
At 15:34, Vermette went to the box for boarding Tyler Kennedy. The second Sharks power play looked a lot less dangerous than any of their penalty kills. Then, 19 seconds after the power play ended, Andrew Desjardins found himself with a clear view of the net from the faceoff circle. He also had the puck. He shot it past Dubnyk and tied the game.
By the end of the second period, the Sharks led in shots 25-13.
The tie did not last long. 52 seconds into the third period, during a ferocious Coyote attack on the Sharks’ net, a rebound came out and pinballed around before Shane Doan helped it past Dillon and Niemi. Assists to Sam Gagner and Tobias Rieder.
At 7:12 of the period, Arizona’s Michael Stone went to the penalty box for tripping Patrick Marleau. Just prior to the penalty, the Sharks were showing distinct signs of life. A couple of good passes to get them out of the zone involved McGinn and Dillon, and some clean, composed puck movement from the Thornton line, put pressure on the Coyotes defense.
The power play was a little slow getting started, marked by a number of passes that required some patience. The Sharks waited the Coyotes out, until Couture was able to find Burns at the middle of the blue line with a tidy pass that Burns blasted on net. Joe Pavelski deflected it in to tie the game again.
The rest of the period seemed to be played mostly in the Sharks’ zone, but in the final seconds of the period the Sharks made a very good push, complete with good shots from Joe Pavelski and a zone entry with maneuvers through traffic from Sheppard. That last one, had Sheppard managed to put the puck in the net, would have been a nice addition to a highlight reel. Alas, he did not and neither did anyone else.
1:05 in to overtime, Coyotes captain Shane Doan went to the box for high-sticking Matt Nieto, who went to the bench holding his right hand gingerly. The Sharks’ power play featured an amazing almost goal saved by a Coyote sprawled in the net behind Dybnyk. Nothing else came close. A small pile up in the net at the end of the power play did remind me of this accident. Just like that pileup, everyone walked, or skated away. Unlike that accident, it was over very quickly.
The shootout went all three rounds, with Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Barclay Goodrow shooting for the Sharks. Sam Gagner, Mikkel Boedker and Antoine Vermette shot for the Coyotes. Vermette shot last and was the only shooter to score.
Joe Pavelski led the Sharks in shots with seven. Tommy Wingels led the team in hits. Three Sharks blocked three shots each: Patrick Marleau, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun. Antti Niemi made 22 saves on 25 shots. Newcomer Brenden Dillon had one shot on goal, four hits and one blocked shot.
Jason Demers, who presumably had his equipment in time for the morning skate, seems to be fitting in nicely with the Dallas Stars.
The Sharks next play at 7:30 on Wednesday the 26th. They will face the visiting Calgary Flames at SAP Center in San Jose.