By Mary Walsh
The San Jose Sharks defeated the Arizona Coyotes 4-2 Friday. It was the Sharks’ 300th win with Todd McLellan as head coach, making him the second-fastest NHL coach to reach that mark. It was also the first time the Sharks beat the Coyotes in regulation in Glendale with Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith in net.
Joe Pavelski brings a lot to the San Jose Sharks in terms of consistency and leadership, but he has not scored very many NHL hat tricks. He is not someone you see wearing a lot of plaid either. He isn’t that kind of flashy. On Friday he scored three goals, one at even strength, one on a power play and one into an empty net. Joe Thornton had assists on all three goals. Barclay Goodrow scored the other Sharks goal, the game winner.
Speaking about the Sharks’ recovery from a poor first period, Pavelski said: “The first just can’t happen, happen again. I think we’re understanding, this time of year, the soft stuff just isn’t going to cut it for us. I think that’s kind of what was said in between the first and second.”
It would be unfair to say that only a continent-wide natural disaster, one that spared no NHL franchise outside Arizona, for the Coyotes to get into the playoffs this season. It is just very unlikely as they are having one stinker of a season. Anyone who has been following the Sharks this season knows that such an opponent has a pretty good chance of beating the Sharks.
The Sharks did not start the game well. Outshot and outscored, it was one San Jose’s worst first periods of the year, against a lackluster opponent. During the first intermission, Tommy Wingels summed it up: “That was about as bad of a first period as we can play. No emotion, getting beat in one on one battles, poor defensive play. I could go on and on, but it’s got to be better in the second period.”
The Sharks were better in the second period, and the third.
Less than two minutes into the first period, Sharks defenseman Mirco Mueller turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Arizona’s newly acquired Mark Arcobello took advantage of that and shot at an unscreened Niemi to give the Coyotes the lead.
Arcobello also took the first penalty of the game, which gave the Sharks a chance to pull themselves together. They had one good chance off a Tomas Hertl shot that found Matt Irwin, Tommy Wingels and Matt Tennyson all near the net. None of them could put the puck around Smith, and after that the Sharks turned the puck over in their zone. the puck found its way back into the Coyotes’ zone but neither team could do anything productive with that. The only player who seemed able to put the puck where he wanted it was Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.
The Sharks took the next penalty, an interference penalty to Matt Tennyson at 13:08. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi made a number of good saves before the Coyotes’ Sam Gagner intercepted a failed clear from Brent Burns. Gagner sent the puck back to the corner, where Keith Yandle passed it out to Martin Erat in the slot. 2-0 Coyotes. Assists to Yandle and Sam Gagner.
By period’s end, the Sharks had been outscored 2-0 and outshot 12-7.
Joe Pavelski opened the second period with a goal 27 seconds in. From behind the goal line, he attempted a pass to Melker Karlsson in front of the net. The puck didn’t reach Karlsson, but bounced off a defenseman and into the net. Assists went to Joe Thornton and Scott Hannan. Half way through the period, the Sharks took another penalty but kill it off.
Todd McLellan moved Tomas Hertl to the fourth line and Chris Tierney up to the third not long after that penalty kill. The move paid off as Hertl drew penalty at 10:57.
The Sharks had some trouble getting their power play going, as a couple of bounces near the blue line kept them out of the Coyotes’ zone. With 11 seconds left in the power play, a check from Tommy Wingels drew retaliation from Oliver Ekman-Larsson. This second power play looked to be in trouble again as Patrick Marleau fanned on a pass at the blue line. A quick recovery turned the tide and a couple of passes later, Joe Pavelski scored again to tie the game. Assists on the power play goal went to Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.
The third period began with promise for the Sharks. An early chance came off a pass from Mirco Mueller that found Matt Nieto up the ice. Nieto did not score but it was a good sign that the Sharks were going in the right direction. It took them just over six minutes of playing time to get there, and Barclay Goodrow was the lucky shooter.
Goodrow came into the zone at speed in a two on one with Andrew Desjardins against Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy. After convincing Murphy and his goaltender that a pass was a good possibility, Goodrow shot instead and gave the Sharks the lead. Assists went to Brent Burns and Antti Niemi. Desjardins made the play possible despite falling in the neutral zone and having to get back to his feet quickly enough to catch up and protect the two on one.
With the win, the Sharks remain in the second spot in the Pacific Division with 66 points. The Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks are right behind them with 63 points each and several games in hand.
Joe Pavelski led the Sharks in shots with five. Tommy Wingels led in hits with four. Mirco Mueller led the team in blocked shots with four. Antti Niemi made 34 saves on 36 shots for the win.
Five different Coyotes had three shots apiece: Sam Gagne, Kyle Chipchura, Michael Stone, Lauri Korpikoski and Brendan Shinnimin. Jordan Martinook led the Coyotes in hits with four. Mike Smith made 22 saves on 25 shots faced.
On the injury front, some updates on absent Sharks came out. Kevin Kurz of CSNCA reported that defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, currently on injured reserve, skated Friday in San Jose and does not have a concussion. Additionally, defenseman Justin Braun could be close to returning, if the initial recovery time of 4-6 weeks was accurate.
The Sharks next play on Sunday at 5:00 PT against the Tampa Bay Lightning in San Jose.