In a lot of ways, tonight's opponent represented the Sharks' ultimate kryptonite. A terrible Arizona Coyotes team, the type of club San Jose has had an inexplicable amount of trouble dispatching over the past two seasons, backstopped by a third-string goalie, the kind of netminder the Sharks seem to routinely fail to solve, seemed like a combination tailor-made to thwart the Sharks and effectively end their playoff hopes.
So it called for a sigh of relief when Joe Pavelski perfectly deposited a one-touch pass from Patrick Marleau at the tail end of a first period power play to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead just five minutes into the game. But things just haven't come that easily for San Jose this season, especially against the dregs of the NHL. What ensued over the next 50 minutes, until Matt Nieto cut the tension with a goal that ultimately restored a two-goal cushion for the Sharks late in the third, was a hard-fought battle with somewhat lopsided shot totals belying how effective Arizona was at generating uniquely dangerous chances on Antti Niemi.
Luckily, Niemi, David Moss' glove and the Sharks' collective shins (San Jose blocked 17 shots in this game) held the Coyotes to just one goal, credited to Mark Arcobello after Brent Burns inadvertently knocked a cross-ice pass into his own net. With the win, the Sharks move to within three points of Los Angeles who currently hold down the final wild card spot and do have a game in hand on San Jose. They'll have another chance to gain ground on their rivals when they face the Coyotes tomorrow night in Glendale for the second half of this home-and-home set. So far, so good.
- Love how many scoring chances the Tierney line is generating on a nightly basis these days. Great to see Nieto get rewarded with the 4-on-4 goal as he continues to do everything right offensively besides finish. His effort to get a high-quality shot off on a semi-breakaway while defended by Klas Dahlbeck was impressive.
- Great first game with the big club for Karl Stollery, who unsurprisingly appears to bring a lot more to the table than the guy he was recalled to replace. A good, mobile skater who isn't afraid to shoot the puck and largely seemed to understand his role as the more conservative half of a pairing with Brent Burns.
- The Sharks will likely get to shoot on Mike Smith tomorrow in Arizona who honestly looks to be a much easier out than Domingue proved to be.
- For as much flak as Patrick Marleau has taken this season, and for as much as it has definitely been far and away his worst campaign since 07-08, there are only 50 NHL players who have scored more points than him this year.
- Moss with the ultimate tank move in the first period, intentionally knocking a puck that was going in anyway over the goal line with his glove, thereby forcing the officials to wave it off. The Coyotes' Connor McDavid odds thank him.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Logan Couture
2nd Star: Patrick Marleau
3rd Star: Joe Pavelski