Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks
By Daniel Dullum
Sports Radio Service
Saturday, November 30, 2019
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Killing penalties is an unglamorous, but necessary part of success in hockey. San Jose has one of the best penalty-kill units in the NHL and proved it again Saturday.
The Sharks overcame an early deficit on Timo Meier’s go-ahead goal, killed off back-to-back power plays in the third period, and defeated Arizona 4-2 in a key Pacific Division contest.
Both teams were playing the second game of back-to-backs — the Sharks beat the Kings 4-1 in Los Angeles on Friday, while the Coyotes lost in Las Vegas in an overtime shootout with the Golden Knights.
“Big resiliency,” is how Sharks coach Peter DeBoer described his team’s effort. “In a back-to-back game, it could have been 4 or 5-0 in the first five minutes. Then we settled down and got to our game. I thought the next 50 minutes was some of the best hockey we’ve played this year.
“We talked about these games (against Los Angeles and Arizona) being four-point games. These are opportunities to close the gap (in the division standings) of which you don’t get very many. So, we wanted to take advantage of both of these games.”
With San Jose leading 3-2 in the third period, San Jose’s Erik Karlsson was cited for tripping at 6:55 and Radim Simek got the gate for delay of game at 9:11, essentially giving the Coyotes a four-minute power play.
Arizona, which finished November with 19 points (8-5-3), was unable to put together an effective power play, and did not capitalize.
“Our PK has been big all year,” DeBoer said. “Not only do we do a good job on it, it really grabs the momentum for us and saps it from the other team. Those are big momentum moments there in the third, and we got a lot of energy from those kills.”
Logan Couture, who scored the first and fourth San Jose goals, said the penalty kill has “won us many games. I was saying the other day, imagine our kill was at 85 percent with all the penalties that we’re taking. We would have lost a lot of these games that we were able to win. Credit to the killers, the system has been great and our goaltenders have been spectacular on the kill.”
The Coyotes wasted little time getting on the board. Nick Schmaltz beat Sharks goaltender Martin Jones at 1:33 for his fifth goal of the season. Less than a minute later, Derek Stepan also scored his fifth goal, giving Arizona a quick 2-0 lead.
Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said, ‘For seven or eight minutes, I think it was our best hockey of the year and the crowd was in it. For whatever reason, after a couple of breakaways, we slowed it down again, a couple of blown coverages, and then it just kind of unraveled.
“You could tell guys were getting tight and I’m not sure why. San Jose is a veteran team and they’ve been in tough games before … 2-0, they weren’t going to panic and they didn’t.”
Logan Couture’s seventh tally of the season cut the Sharks’ deficit to 2-1 at 11:01 of the first period. Couture’s shot from the slot just outside the right circle beat a screened Antti Raanta, with assists going to Erik Karlsson and Evander Kane.
San Jose got the equalizer at 2:55 of the second period when Dylan Gambrell circled around from behind the net and flipped a low shot at a sharp angle from the bottom of the right circle, beating Raanta to the stick side.
Moments later, the Sharks took their first lead of the game on Timo Meier’s redirection at 8:52. From the faceoff in the left circle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic won the draw, passed to Tomas Hertl at the left point, whose shot was steered in by Meier, who was parked to the left of the crease.
With the Coyotes employing a sixth attacker in the final minute, Couture popped in an empty-net goal at 19:31.
After a shaky start, Jones settled down at stopped 21 of 23 shots. Raanta finished with 26 saves, as the Sharks outshot Arizona 30-23.
“Martin’s been big here lately,” DeBoer said. “I think his season has mirrored our team’s season, getting off to a slow start and then finding our game. I think he’s done the same thing.”
The Sharks return home for a Tuesday game against Washington, then embark on an eastern road trip to Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida and Nashville.
Attendance at Gila River Arena was 15,485.