By Mary Walsh
AP photo: Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith stops a shot from the San Jose Sharks Tomas Hertl (48) during the first period at SAP Center Saturday
SAN JOSE- The San Jose Sharks defeated the Arizona Coyotes to win their final game of the 2015-16 regular season. The lone goal of the game was scored by Joe Pavelski in a third period power play. Martin Jones made 20 saves for the shutout. It took the Sharks 32 shots to get one by Arizona’s Mike Smith.
In Los Angeles, meantime, the Kings fell in a shootout to the Winnipeg Jets. As a result, the Anaheim Ducks have a chance to supplant the Kings at the top of the Pacific Division on Sunday. The Sharks, therefore, do not know yet who they will play to start the first round of the playoffs.
Paul Martin did not play on Saturday, and Mirco Mueller got the call to fill in. Mueller started the game with Justin Braun, while Dylan DeMelo was paired with Brent Burns. Dainius Zubrus was back in the lineup after missing Thursday’s game, on a line with Tommy Wingels and Chris Tierney.
The Sharks were on the penalty kill early in the first, after a boarding call to Roman Polak. Arizona did not do much with that, and not long after the penalty expired, the Sharks had their first power play. With Connor Murphy in the box for two minutes, the Sharks did not even manage a shot on goal.
The teams were almost half way through the first when Polak dropped the gloves with Shane Doan. That sprouted from some bumping and pushing in the Sharks’ zone that also involved Joe Pavelski. Polak went to the box for his five minutes, but the Sharks wound up with a four minute power play, as Shane Doan received two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, two minutes for instigating a fight, five minutes for fighting, and a ten minute misconduct. Anthony Duclair served the four minutes for Doan.
The Sharks power play still did not produce. Better chances came back at even strength, where the Sharks kept the pressure on the Arizona defense.
The Sharks had a third power play in the first period, when Oliver Ekman-Larsson went to the box for hooking. The Sharks went 0-3 on the power play in the first period.
To start the second period, coach DeBoer switched his defensive pairs around, putting Justin Braun with Brent Burns, and Mueller with DeMelo. Arizona came out with some grit, trapping the Sharks in their own zone for a couple of minutes, but that seemed unrelated to the line adjustments, as Polak and Dillon were on the blue line for that unhappy spell.
The Coyotes had their second power play at 5:20 of the second, a cross checking call to Joel Ward. The Sharks’ penalty kill was a little fast and loose but it was effective and showed the Sharks to advantage. That was the only penalty for the second period, and by the end of forty minutes the game was still scoreless.
It was on the Sharks’ fourth power play of the game that they finally scored. The Sharks had a two man advantage at 6:33 of the third period, after Boyd Gordon was called for hi-sticking and Oliver Ekman-Larsson was called for unsportsmanlike conduct simultaneously. A little under a minute into the power play, Joe Pavelski scored his 38th of the season. Assists went to Joe Thornton and Brent Burns.
The NHL Playoffs start on Wednesday and a more specific schedule is expected late Sunday.
The Sharks presented their end of season awards during and after the game. Joe Thornton received the Sharks Foundation Player of the Year Award, as voted on by members of the media. Joe Pavelski won the Xactly Inspired Performance Three Stars of the Year Award, for the number of times he was named as one of the stars of the game. Joonas Donskoi took home the Rookie of the Year Award presented by SAP, also voted on by members of the media. Brent Burns won the Fan Favorite Award presented by Enterprise Exotic Car Collection. This was tabulated by fan votes on social media.
Saturday’s game was the 300th NHL game for Tommy Wingels and 200th for Tomas Hertl.