By Mary Walsh
SAN JOSE– In their continuing quest to remain in the playoff hunt, the San Jose Sharks beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Saturday. Of the last couple of wins, Joe Pavelski said “We just haven’t had the big turnovers, that’s the biggest thing, through the middle of the ice. It’s allowed us to go forecheck, and when we forecheck and roam around that o-zone that’s effective for us.”
Early in the first period, the game looked like it was setting up to be a rout. The Sharks scored their first goal 58 seconds into the game. By the middle of the period, the Sharks had a two goal lead and were ahead in shots 11-1. The pace had to slow down, and it did. By the end of the period, the Sharks had not scored again and had added a paltry five shots to their tally, while the Coyotes had trebled theirs.
The Sharks did not regain that first period dominance but never let the Coyotes draw even in any aspect of the game. Sharks goals were scored by Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Matt Nieto. Antti Niemi made 20 saves for the win, while Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue made 34 saves for the Coyotes. The lone Coyote goal was scored by Marc Arcobello.
After taking control of the puck in the neutral zone, Patrick Marleau found Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture on their way into the Coyotes’ zone. Hertl drew the defender to him, and was able to get a pass to Couture despite the Coyote stick in front of him. Couture caught the pass with his skate and shot it quickly to open the scoring 58 seconds into the game.
A couple of minutes later, B.J. Crombeen was called for hooking against Brenden Dillon. The Sharks racked up some shots on that power play but did not score until a minute after it expired. Couture sent the puck to Marleau near the goal line, who passed it back up to Pavelski, who was waiting just below the faceoff circle. Pavelski shot it into the top corner with emphasis.
The Coyotes got the puck past Niemi at 5:51, but it was called no goal as David Moss pushed the puck into the net with his hand, while falling over Niemi.
At the ten minute mark of the first period, shots were 11-1 Sharks.
With 3:52 left in the first, the Coyotes went on the power play and Matt Nieto went to the box for a high stick. One of the Coyotes’ better chances on the power play was foiled when Martin Erat mishandled the puck and could not get a shot off though he had some room to do it. The Sharks did not allow the Coyotes any shots on their power play.
At the end of the first period, the Sharks still led 2-0 and a 16-3 lead on the shot clock.
The Sharks added a shot to that count in the first minutes of the second but it was the Coyotes who scored on their fifth shot of the game. Marc Arcobello sent the puck at the net where Tobias Reider was waiting to knock it in. Reider did not get the chance as the puck went off of Brent Burns past Niemi to make it 2-1.
By the middle of the second period, the Coyotes had clearly stopped the bleeding. They were keeping with the Sharks on the shot clock at six apiece. The shot count for the period was 10-7 Sharks.
The Sharks’ third period was no return to their first period dominance, but they did achieve some symmetry at the half way mark, when the shot clock read 31-13 Sharks. Beyond that, the period was fairly uneventful.
The teams played four on four at when Brenden Dillon and Tye McGinn went to the box with matching roughing minors. Before that was over, Matt Nieto extended the Sharks lead with an impressive backhand shot while being pressured by two Coyotes in front of the net. Assists went to Chris Tierney and Matt Irwin.
Seconds later, the Coyotes reduced their numbers by one, giving the Sharks a seven second four on three power play. Michael Stone took a seat next to McGinn in the penalty box, for high sticking.
The balance of the Sharks power play was spent chasing down a lot of short-handed chances, but the Coyotes did not score on any of them.
Karl Stollery led the Sharks in hits with four. (He also had three shots and two blocked shots and a takeaway), Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture each had five shots on goal and Taylor Fedun led the team in blocked shots.
Lineup notes: Mike Brown made a return to the lineup after missing 47 games with a leg fracture. Rookie Karl Stollery made his San Jose debut on the blue line after being called up Thursday. It was his eighth NHL game over two seasons. The Sharks acquired him from the Colorado Avalanche at the March 2 trade deadline.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Mirco Mueller and Scott Hannan were all out of the lineup with injuries. John Scott was a scratch.
The Sharks play the Coyotes again on Saturday at 6:00 PT in Glendale, Arizona.