The San Jose Sharks Noah Gregor (73) scores a goal and gets congratulated from John Leonard (43) in the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at SAP Center on Mon Apr 26, 2021 (photo from Bay Area News Group)
By Matthew Harrington
The San Jose Sharks snapped their eight game losing streak, winning a pivotal contest 6-4 against the Arizona Coyotes in front of an audience of fans for the first time all season. Evander Kane picked up four points, Josef Korenar made 21 saves to secure his first NHL win and Alexander Barabanov netted his first career goal. By winning in regulation, the Sharks (19-24-5) kept the gap between fourth-place St. Louis, who won earlier in the night, at five points and kept Arizona (21-23-5) from jumping out eight points ahead of the Sharks. The Sharks had a 4-0 lead in the second but Arizona clawed their way back in.
“It was a lot closer than it should have been, let’s put it that way,” said Sharks coach Bob Boughner. “That’s no disrepesct to the other team. There’s just a couple of goals we would like to have back but it didn’t rattle us tonight.”
The Sharks took control early, with Noah Gregor scoring just 17 seconds into play after Dylan Gambrell pressured Coyotes netminder Darcy Kuemper on a play behind the net. Kuemper hopped back in the net but the shot went in Kuemper’s feet for Gregor’s fifth goal of the year.
Brent Burns doubled the lead a few minutes later, beating Kuemper on a bomb through a Tomas Hertl screen from the point at the 3:07 mark. Hertl and Evander Kane assisted on Burns’ seventh goal of the season and second in his last five games.
Sharks captain Logan Couture stayed hot, scoring in a second consecutive game after going goalless for 16. Couture picked a rebound from a Greg Pateryn shot out of his skates and beat an out-of-position Kuemper for a 3-0 lead 1:54 into the second. Erik Karlsson then added another on a another long distance shot, chasing Kuemper 3:19 into the second.
“We’re getting some bodies in front of the net,” said Boughner. “Which is allowing us to get some second, third opportunities. Our D are doing a better job of getting pucks through. I thought we were good off the rush today. I thought we created some chances off the rush.”
With Adin Hill in net, the Coyotes started to dig out of a hole with Michael Bunting, Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun all scoring for the Arizona on Korenar.
“He battles hard in there,” said Boughner. “He’s a young guy. He’s still finding his game. There’s a couple I’m sure he’d want back.”
They would then go on the power play 6:41 into the third period after Timo Meier took down Chychrun with a trip, but the Sharks penalty kill stood up the Arizona’s man advantage.
“They got a power play, he came up with 2 or 3 big saves,” said Boughner on his netminder. “That just shows that he has the ability to brush that off, the ability to battle back and be aggressive still and not sit back and be conservative in net. That’s what I like, I like a guy that’s going to get in there and fight.”
With Ryan Donato and Kevin Labanc both out, recent trade acquisition Alexander Barbanov drew in on the second line with Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane. He made the most of his opportunity after appearing in just 13 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs coming into the game with just the lone assist, scoring in his Team Teal debut to give the Sharks breathing room. Barbanov parked himself in the crease for a Kane rebound 11:17 into the final period for his first career NHL goal and a 5-3 lead.
“I’ve seen him play in Toronto a little bit before,” said Erik Karlsson about the new forward inserted into the line up. “I’ve heard good things about him. he came in and stayed true to himself. He played a hard game, he has some skill too. He wasn’t afraid to play with the big guys on the second line. He came in and it was a good first game for him and obviously nice for him to get a goal right away to get things going for him. It’s always nice to see.”
The goal would be needed after Chychrun added to his defenseman-leading 16th goal with 4:44 left in regulation. Chychrun, the Coyotes top defenseman, played through some pain after taking a couple of painful shot blocks in the second period. Evander Kane release the pressure after scoring an empty netter with 8.1 seconds left for a 6-4 Sharks win.
The Sharks will face Arizona at home yet again looking to keep that final playoff spot in striking distance. They’ll once again have the added boost of a handful of fans back in attendance.
“It was nice to see a little bit of normalcy,” said Karlsson on what the fans in the building meant. “Even though there weren’t that many you could hear how excited they were to be back. They supported us the entire time.”
Notes: The Sharks had 500 fans in attendance, considered a sellout in the current ticketing model…Barabanov came to the Sharks at the deadline for Antti Suomela as a bit of an unknown, he was the odd man out in Toronto, needing to play a skill role on a team with a loaded top-six…Kevin Labanc’s small ironman streak of 263 games was snapped after being scratched with an injury….Evander Kane scored his 19th goal of the season. If he scores a 20th this season it will be his 6th straight season of 20 or more goals…Both teams combined to go 0-7 on the power play.A