Shootout Success- Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau had shootout goals for the Team Teal while Antti Niemi made two of three possible saves as the San Jose Sharks edged out the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 Friday night at the Jobbing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona. With the win the Sharks extend their winning streak to three games having won all three contests in a shootout period. Team Teal gains ground on the idle Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. The game was the first game for both teams coming out of the just concluded three-day league wide Christmas break. The Sharks in the early part of the game looked a little slow to the puck and a bit sloppy however got things figured out by late in the opening period and went on to give the Coyotes a strong challenge all evening. The Sharks also solved Phoenix Coyotes’ goalie Mike Smith who has had a history of being very tough on Team Teal. Offensively the Sharks got several good looks on the net and were able to string together a number of good scoring opportunities. Likewise the Coyotes also challenged Niemi who made 33 saves on the evening to match his counterpart’s total. The Sharks were able to get goals from Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Marleau.
Coming Out of The Break- The Sharks in the beginning looked like they had not played for a while even though it was really just four days. The effort was there all along though it took a little time for their land legs to take hold and maybe also their decision making too. The Coyotes grabbed a one goal lead at the 7:43 mark of the first period as Matt Nieto from almost behind his own net made an ill-advised pass towards Tyler Kennedy that missed it’s intended recipient and instead ended up on the stick of the Coyotes’ David Moss. Once on his stick Moss drilled a slap shot that beat a surprised Niemi to give Phoenix the early lead. This was really the only bad play the Sharks made in the period however they would find themselves spending the rest of the frame dealing with the frustration of just not being able to get any rubber past Smith. The Sharks had 12 shots on goal in the opening frame and got their fair share of chances, just no “puck luck” to speak of.
Patience Finally Pays Off- The oddity of the second period was that the Coyotes despite being more dominant on the ice could never really get a foothold on the Sharks who despite fewer chances made the most of the ones they got. After defensively holding Team Teal to just three shots on goal through almost half of the middle period, the Sharks finally got the long awaited break they needed against Smith. Despite winning a face off in their own zone, the Coyotes were not able to clear the puck out of their zone as Burns reached out near the blue line to prevent a clearing pass by Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Burns then immediately got the puck over to Sharks Captain Joe Thornton who was skating towards Smith and the Coyotes net. Seeing Pavelski open his left, Thornton immediately fed the puck to Pavelski who drilled a wrister that beat Smith top shelf to tie the game at a goal apiece. The tie however would only last about as long as an ice cube on a Phoenix sidewalk in July. Just a minute and eight seconds after the Sharks tied the game Phoenix retook the lead at 2-1 when Moss would score his second goal of the game, tipping in a slap shot from David Schlemko who drilled the puck from the point. Niemi was in position to stop Schlemko’s shot but could do nothing about Moss’ tip in. The Sharks would soon catch a break just seconds Moss’s second goal when the Coyotes Derek Morris was called for an interference penalty. The Sharks had a two-minute power play where they seemingly got a number of good looks at the net but still were being frustrated by Smith. On a final push with the power play opportunity about to expire the Sharks Jason Demers was able to get a long pass to Marleau who then fed Tommy Wingles before both crossed into the Coyotes zone. Once in the Phoenix defensive zone Wingles fed the puck back to Marleau who drilled a wrist shot that five holed both defender Michael Stone and Smith to tie the game again. Meanwhile Niemi after a shaky start in the net settled in rather well and was able to string together 21 saves through the first two periods.
Keeping the Rubber Flying- In the third period the Sharks continued to keep the pressure on the Coyotes however Smith continued to be the usual tough customer. Smith held strong during a Sharks early power play chance and by the time half of the third period was over he already had eight more saves. With just under ten minutes remaining in the third period the Sharks jumped all over a Coyotes turnover and were able to tie the puck up in the Phoenix defensive zone. Thornton was able to pry the hard rubber biscuit loose against the boards before feeding it to Pavelski who was also along the boards towards the Coyotes goal. Pavelski with the puck saw Burns was incoming from the right point and immediately fed the hot biscuit to him. Burns received Pavelski’s pass right on the tape of his stick and drilled a wrister that beat Smith giving Team Teal their first lead of the game at 3-2. However the Sharks did not get to much of an opportunity to enjoy the lead as the Coyotes took advantage of their turn with a power play after Wingles was soon called for interference. Phoenix tied the game late in their power play when Radim Vrbata drilled a slap shot that beat Niemi with 6:29 remaining in regulation. The two teams would trade scoring opportunities for the remainder of the third period and the ensuing overtime period. Burns had a chance to win the game in overtime as he pounced on a Coyotes turnover and had a point-blank chance on Smith, however Smith would deny Burns as he was able to make a blocker save.
Shootout #11- The Sharks are not only no longer strangers to the shootout period. They have in fact become veterans of 10 previous games that were decided in the skills competition. The Shootout period for the Sharks actually did not start off all that well as Mikkel Boedker was able to beat Niemi top shelf. However Couture, the Sharks first shooter would answer back as he was able to elevate a puck past Smith. After Niemi made a save on Vrbata in the second of the three frames, Marleau scored what would prove to be his second straight game winning shootout goal as he was also able to elevate a puck past Smith. On the Coyotes final chance to keep the game going, Niemi stoned Ekman-Larsson to end the evenings festivities.
A Huge Challenge Lies Ahead- The Sharks with the win pick up an all important two points in the standings which is huge anytime you can do it on the road. It’s even bigger when you consider that for the next two games it will be all hands on deck for the Sharks as the opponent will be the arch rival Anaheim Ducks in a home and home series. The first of the two games will be played on a very rare Sunday night ( Dec. 29th) 7:30pm PT start at the Shark Tank. The two teams meet again two days later in Anaheim on New Years Eve for a 5pm PT start. All games will be on TV in Northern California through the CSN network and carried on the Sharks Radio Network as well.
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