Coming into the game Saturday night, there was some pretty big roster news. Scott Gomez had the night off, which brought James Sheppard back, and Matt Tennyson came in for Scott Hannan. But the most notable difference came in goal. After starting 24 straight games, Antti Niemi actually got some rest, forcing professional face-off tracker Thomas Greiss in between the pipes.
Greiss would be tested early and often, with the rest of the Sharks starting very slow. Lauri Korpikoski nearly stole a goal 30 seconds into the game, but Greiss came up big. Later in the period, the Coyotes would convert on a chance to take the lead. After a battle ensued along the far boards, the puck came loose and was thrown across to Michael Stone. Stone took his time and wound up for a huge slapper from just inside the top of the circle. 1-0 Coyotes. Stone from Vrbata and Doan at 11:56 of the first.
Phoenix would continue getting the better of the chances in the period. The pressure put on by the Coyotes eventually forced Tennyson to take a hooking penalty on Shane Doan with 3:38 remaining in the period. On the ensuing power-play, Keith Yandle would score on a big shot from the point that tipped off of Brad Stuart's stick in front. 2-0 COYOTES. Yandle from Ekman-Larsson and Doan at 17:52 of first.
While the Coyotes seemed to thoroughly control the first period, the second was a bit more even. After shaking off some of the rust, the Sharks would get up on the board early in the second period. On the forecheck, T.J. Galiardi puts some good pressure on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who turns it over to Brent Burns. Burns wastes no time as he takes a blast from the top of the circles and beats Smith. 2-1 Coyotes. Burns unassisted at 3:31 of the second. As Drew Remenda mentioned on the broadcast, it was a very good read by Burns. It's amazing how good he is on forecheck despite being a converted defenseman. On their next shift, Galiardi and Burns nearly combined to tie the game, but Burns sent a rebound shot off the crossbar.
After a bad penalty from Adam Burish, Phoenix had some extended time with the man advantage, but were kept to the outside very nicely by the Sharks penalty kill. After the successful kill, San Jose nearly tied the game again. Pavelski had a nice heads up play as he picked up a turnover in Phoenix's zone that bounced off the boards. He fired quickly, but Smith scurried back to rob him of another game-tying goal.
As the third period started, Phoenix still had some good jump. Dan Boyle had his stick shatter in his hands and nearly gave Radim Vrbata a goal, but Greiss bailed out the team. Boyd Gordon had a phenomenal shift early on as well, getting two or three great chances. But after those chances, the Sharks dominated the rest of the game. Down the stretch, Galiardi, Thornton, Burns, Irwin and Boyle looked spectacular, getting chance after chance. But Mike Smith continued to shut down the Sharks... again. His most ridiculous save came on a late shot from Logan Couture with Patrick Marleau screening him. Smith used his x-ray goggles to look through Marleau and stop it with his blocker. Smith was able to hang on for the victory as time expired. Final score: Coyotes 2, Sharks 1.
- As mentioned above, the Sharks' penalty kill really kept Phoenix to outside and limited chances, at least after the first Coyotes power-play. The penalty kill finished 3/4 for the night.
- The top line had a good night, thank to an absolutely phenomenal effort from T.J. Galiardi. As The Neutral posted earlier this week, it looks like San Jose is finally getting the player we saw in the Colorado playoff series a few years back.
- According to the Sharks broadcast, Phoenix is 46-1-1 (now 47-1-1) when leading after two periods since the start of the 2011-2012 season. Remember that when you hear people say 'the prevent defense only prevents winning.' Do it right and you can dominate.
- Speaking of domination, I'll just leave this here:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Mike Smith now 6-0-1 in his last 7 games vs Sharks, with 4 shutouts during that span. He's allowed a total of 7 goals in those 7 games.</p>— Darin Stephens (@SharksStats) <a href="https://twitter.com/SharksStats/status/327280558772207616">April 25, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
FTF 3 Stars
1st star: Mike Smith
2nd star: Thomas Greiss
3rd star: Keith Yandle
I really wanted to give Galiardi a star, but couldn't quite convince myself he was more worthy than the goaltenders or the goal scorers. Still, a great game for T.J.
The Sharks' final game of the regular season is on Saturday at 7 pm against the Los Angeles Kings. There's a lot riding on that game - very possibly including home ice advantage. San Jose can still finish anywhere from fourth to seventh in the Western Conference based on how St. Louis and Minnesota do in their last two games. Go Sharks!