Shootout Victory- Logan Couture’s game winning goal in the shootout backed by three saves from Antti Niemi gave the San Jose Sharks a 3-2 victory over the division rival Phoenix Coyotes. Couture’s game winning score came after just seconds earlier “Taking one for the team…” at the end of the overtime period when he sacrificed his body to block a slap shot from the Coyotes’ Radim Vrbata. Niemi made 27 saves through three periods and an overtime where the Sharks almost gave the game away twice. Niemi’s scoreless streak of 121:40 seconds would last until 14:43 of the opening period when the Coyotes’ Boyd Gordon put a rebound of a wrist shot past him. Joe Pavelski’s power play goal in the second period and Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s game tying goal with five minutes left in regulation enabled the Sharks to ultimately take hard earned points in the standings that they almost didn’t get.
Jason LaBarbera got the start in goal for the Coyotes taking the place of the injured Mike Smith and had a very strong game for himself and his team. LaBarbera kept the Sharks off of the scoreboard as team teal put all kinds of pressure on the Phoenix defense. LaBarbera made 32 saves on the evening which enabled the Coyotes to stay in the game with a chance to win late. The Coyotes made clear passing lanes a rarity for the Sharks as the desert dogs seemed to have many avenues closed off to the Sharks. When the Sharks were able to control the puck LaBarbera was coming up with enough saves to match Niemi on the other end of the rink.
With the win the Sharks improve their overall record to 17-11-6 and have hit the 40 point mark in the Western Conference Standings. The Sharks have passed Detroit in the standings for at least overnight and hold the sixth place spot, sending the Red Wings to seventh. The Coyotes meanwhile picked up a point in the standings to and moved to 34 points, however are caught in a log jam of teams that are trying to get to the above water mark of eight place.
Dominance By Itself Not Enough- The opening period for the Sharks could probably be summed up best by describing it as the text book meaning of the phrase “Good, However Not Good Enough.” The Sharks did several things right in the period and had several good quality scoring chances. LaBarbera efforts certainly played a big role as at one point the Sharks had 12 shots on goal in the first 15 minutes of the period. LaBarbera early on denied a breakaway chance by Couture, as well as stuff in attempts from Pavelski and Ryane Clowe. The Sharks also had some tough luck as a point blank shot by Patrick Marleau near the side of the net hit the post. With just under five and a half minutes remaining in the period, the Coyotes were able to retain puck possession from behind the Sharks net as Derek Morris was able to get a pass off to Rob Klinkhammer. With the puck firmly on his stick Klinkhammer carried it in front of the net and tried to wrist the rubber biscuit past Niemi. Despite saving Klinkhammer’s attempt, the rebound came out towards Gordon who put the puck over Niemi top shelf giving Phoenix the 1-0 lead it would carry to the second period.
More Teal Opportunities- The Sharks would again start to build up pressure on the Coyotes defense. Just three minutes into the period TJ Galiardi would launch a blistering shot on goal just past the Coyotes blue line that LaBarbera saved despite being knocked back by it. LaBarbera was able to clear the puck away before Clowe could pick up the lose puck. The Sharks would later get a big opportunity to tie the game as Klinkhammer gave Justin Braun a stick facial. The four minute double minor was called for the high stick plus cutting Braun. Early in the power play, Dan Boyle has a shot off the faceoff that LaBarbera somehow saved. Seconds later Couture’s slap shot would hit the left goal post. The first two minutes of the minor penalty would eventually be killed off. The Sharks however knew they still had time to make something happen.
With 1:40 remaining in the power play time, Joe Thornton won the race to a loose puck in the Coyotes zone along the boards and passed it back towards Pavelski. No sooner did the puck get to him that Pavelski would launch a blistering slap shot from the left point which beat LaBarbera to his right to tie the game at a goal apiece. Pavelski’s goal was the first given up to the Sharks by the Coyotes in over 155 minutes of ice time dating back to their last meeting on February 9th. The Sharks from that point for the remainder of the period seemed to have all the momentum going in their favor. Team teal however could not get a second puck past LaBarbera for the remainder of the frame. Marleau had one of the best chances for a goal shortly after Pavelski had tied the game, but LaBarbera was on top of it and denied the scoring attempt. James Sheppard also had a break away chance but shot the puck wide left of the net.
Not The Best Start to a Period- The start of the third period for the Sharks was something for in which the reason mulligans were invented. The only problem is that the NHL does not do mulligans. The Coyotes regained a one goal lead just 33 seconds into the period when the Sharks defense had just enough of a lapse. Vrbata taking a feed pass in front of the net from Shane Doan put two shots on Niemi. The Sharks netminder saved the first shot but could not control the rebound. With the puck going right back to Vrbata, he wristed a second shot that got past Niemi to his left. Vrbata took advantage of being wide open in skating past Tommy Wingles and Brent Burns. The Coyotes would hold the lead despite some good opportunities by team teal to tie the game.
Niemi still had his share of Coyotes scoring chances to deal with also. One of Niemi’s best saves of the period came off of the stick of Antoine Vermette who drilled a blistering slap shot after taking a rebound off the boards from behind the Sharks goal. Niemi would also moments later stone Keith Yandle who’s slap shot could barely be held on to. With just over five minutes remaining in regulation, Vlasic carried the puck up ice and launch a shot at LaBarbera who would make the initial save. The puck came back to Vlasic again who’s second shot was also denied. A second rebound though would also work it’s way back to Vlasic who passed the puck to Pavelski on the left side of the net. Pavelski’s attempt would get stoned also. However Vlasic had skated around the back of the goal and quickly pounced on the puck and jammed it past LaBarbera to tie the game. The score would hold up through the remainder of regulation.
Sharks Escape Overtime to Win in Shootout- The overtime period would not be one of the signature moments in Sharks franchise history not because of how it started but for almost how it ended up. The Sharks had a couple of scoring chances early in the extra five minutes but could not cash anything in. In the last minute and change of the shootout period the Sharks had to survive two turnovers that nearly turned into Coyotes game winning goals. Clowe also drew tripping penalty with just 12.5 seconds left in overtime giving the Coyotes a brief power play chance. It would be Couture who would make the save of the game blocking a Vrbata shot on goal before the Overtime period ended.
In the Shootout Couture got the game winning goal on the first attempt by either team. Despite giving up a goal to Couture, LaBarbera still stoned Pavelski and Boyle. Meanwhile Niemi also rose to the occasion and came away three saves against Steve Sullivan, Radim Vrbata, and Mikkel Boedker.
Shark Bytes- The 3 Stars of the Game Saturday Night were 3) Marc-Edouard Vlasic; 2) Jason LaBarbera (Coyotes); and 1) Logan Couture. Vlasic’s goal to tie the game with five minutes remaining was a fitting way to celebrate one’s 26th birthday. The Sharks are 3-0-0 on the home stand so far and have won four in a row overall. Couture’s shootout winning goal was the fourth of his career, but the first for this season. The Sharks outshot the Coyotes 34-29. TSN is reporting that Ryane Clowe could be dealt by the Sharks before the weekend is out, the story came out shortly after the game had ended.**
Next Sharks Game- Monday Night (4/1) at the Shark Tank versus Western Conference foe Vancouver. The Sharks are 2-0-0 against the Canucks this year, beating them 4-1 at the Shark Tank January 27th, and 3-2 in Vancouver BC on March 5th. The puck drop for Monday’s game is 7:30pm PDT. TV: CSN California II (due to conflicting Oakland A’s season opener). Radio: Sharks Radio Network (98.5 FM San Jose/102.1 FM San Francisco) …
Be sure to follow all of your BoT staff on twitter!!!
The Jessica Redfield Ghawi Foundation:
Stand Up 2 Cancer:
So, So Much Hope
Sandy Hook Family Fund:
**Source: TSN.ca http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=419508