The San Jose Sharks get their celebration on after a two game sweep over the Arizona Coyotes at SAP Center on Wed Apr 28, 2021 (@SanJoseSharks image)
By Matt Harrington
The San Jose Sharks playoff hopes, while dimming, still live on after the Sharks 4-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes Wednesday night in San Jose. Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl had two points each, Kevin Labanc scored in his return to the lineup after missing Monday’s game with an injury and Evander Kane scored to continue a streak of six 20-goal seasons. Josef Korenar made 28 saves for his second career and consecutive win to keep San Jose (20-24-5) 5 points back of St. Louis, another victorious team Wednesday, for the final spot in the West.
The Sharks did most of their damage in the first period, scoring three goals on Darcy Kuemper. Kane scored first just 1:12 into play on the rush. Tomas Hertl wheeled into the zone, pulled up and hit Alexander Barabanov on the far post. Barabanov dished the puck to Kane cross-crease for the one-timer. Barabanov now has points in both games he’s appeared in for San Jose.
Rudolfs Balcers beat Kuemper 10:06 into the frame after the Sharks continued to gum up the neutral zone and force turnovers. Balcers caught Niklas Hjalmarsson flat-footed and sped around him for an open lane to the net. Logan Couture and John Leonard assisted on Balcers’ seventh of the year.
The Sharks third goal was a combined effort of Noah Gregor, Alex True and Kevin Labanc. Gregor picked up a homerun pass that would have gone for an icing for a slower skater and fed true net front. The pass drew Kuemper out so that True’s rebound would go to Labanc for an easy empty net goal and a 3-0 lead with 5:52 left in the first. It’s Labanc’s 11th goal of the season, and first since April 9th. He missed Monday’s game with an injury.
Phil Kessel joined rare company, becoming one of three players to score eight goals against the Sharks in a season. He accomplished the feat with 4:13 left in the period for a 3-1 Sharks edge. He joins Teemu Selanne and Luc Robitaille in the outer club and has nearly as many goals against the Sharks as the rest of the league (10) this year. Johan Larsson scored 4:40 into the second to cut the lead to one at 3-2. Hertl’s empty-netter sealed the game for San Jose and gave him an Couture (secondary assist on the play) multipoint nights.
Next up for the Sharks is a road trip to Colorado. They’ll play a two game road set against the Avs before welcoming the second place in-division Colorado side for two at home as the season moves to the final weeks.
Notes: Brinson Pasichnuk made his NHL debut for the Sharks. He’s the first skater and second player from the fledgling Arizona State hockey program to make their NHL debuts this year. Joey D’accord played in net for the Ottawa Senators earlier this year…Matt Nieto skated in practice but a return date is still unclear…Alex True appeared in the lineup for the first time since March 3rd. He had his first point of the season…Evander Kane has seven career 20 goal seasons in total….John Leonard has his first point since an assist April 10th against Los Angeles.