With just 13 goals in their past seven games, San Jose headed into Arizona with questions about their scoring ability following them around the ice. They had to imagine Arizona could be a nice place to end their three-game losing streak and seemingly endless scoring drought. Despite the Coyotes’ three-game win streak heading into tonight’s game, their shot differential and expected goal differential had both been bottom-three in the league during November, their recent run of tick marks in the “win” column a desert mirage.
The Sharks didn’t do themselves any favors, taking two penalties midway through the first period. Luckily for them, the best chance on the ensuing power plays came for the penalty killing road team, as Joel Ward found Logan Couture breaking away out of the penalty box. The play ended in a good, yet fruitless chance, as so many have for the Sharks this year.
Moments later, San Jose won an offensive zone face-off back to Brent Burns, who promptly released a wrist shot that deflected off a body in front of the net and ricocheted off goalie Scott Wedgewood’s pad to Joe Thornton who, to everyone’s surprise, directed the rebounded puck into the back of the net. Before the face-off, Arizona replaced Antti Raanta in net with Wedgewood, due to an injury Raanta suffered after a collision with Couture, so perhaps the cold start paved way for the sudden goal.
The first period ended with little more excitement than San Jose’s goal, both teams seemingly content to trade icings and intercepted passes.
Five minutes into a slightly more active second period, Donskoi cleaned up a loose puck along the sideboards from a mess of bodies before deking a Coyotes’ defenseman and saucing a backhand pass to Couture, who promptly deposited it into the goal for the Sharks’ second of the evening.
Arizona forced Martin Jones to make a few sprawling saves on shots up close as the Coyotes attempted to force their way back into the game. San Jose’s netminder was up to the challenge, emerging from the second frame with his shutout intact.
After two frames and Arizona’s desperate pushes up ice, San Jose found itself behind in the shot department 29-33, yet somehow slightly ahead in the shots-on-goal column, 15-13.
Timo Meier, Ryan Carpenter, and Kevin Labanc all starred for San Jose in driving shot differential, perhaps suggesting the new-look lines tonight are all starting to find some chemistry.
Only 40 seconds into the third, the men in stripes granted San Jose its first power play of the evening. Despite apparent improvements during the past two games, the extra man team appeared back to its old ineffective ways. Shortly after the power play expired, Joe Thornton made a strong play to protect the puck in Arizona’s zone before finding Timo Meier who, in on net, either mishot his shot with his backhand or saw the puck deflect off a post or Wedgewood’s pads and up into the netting.
Jones had again to rely on his reflexes on another in-close opportunity from Arizona, poking the puck away after a nice give-and-go between Coyote forwards.
At 12:23 of the third period, San Jose failed to clear their own zone, leaving Oliver Ekman-Larsson with an easy feed to Derek Stepan, who sent a cross-ice pass to a wide open Brendan Perlini. Perlini was able to redirect the puck past Martin Jones’ extended skate blade to get the Coyotes on the board.
With 30 seconds left in the game and the Arizona net empty, San Jose won a neutral-zone faceoff. Joel Ward muscled his way past a Coyote forward, found the puck, and secured the insurance goal to end the Sharks mini-slump.
While the Sharks’ inability to score more than two goals at even strength continued, they did a good job defensively, as they have for most of the season.
- Brenden Dillon’s usually stout paring was the Sharks’ worst tonight. While one game is a very small sample size, the discrepancy between Dillon’s time with Dylan DeMelo and his time with Tim Heed, (even Roman Polak), and others illustrates part of why San Jose has tried everything from trading for players to picking up free agents to fill up their sixth defense position.
- The Carpenter/Ward/Boedker fourth line had a rough evening. Look for the musical chairs in the bottom-six to continue Friday in Las Vegas.
- Of Timo Meier on his left wing, Joe Thornton said during the post-game interview, “[Meier is] playing at a really high level,” before praising the 21-year-old’s strength and size.