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Quick Bite: Sharks finally solve Smith, beat Arizona 4-1

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With the help of All-Universe D-man Brent Burns, the Sharks picked up a much needed win.

San Jose Sharks v New Jersey Devils
Brent Burns notched two goals in tonight’s matchup with Arizona, strengthening his Hart Trophy candidacy.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Sharks were able to exorcise the demons of Coyotes matchups past by jumping on the pesky Arizona club early in a 4-1 win, courtesy of strong goaltending from Aaron Dell and goals from Brent Burns, Melker Karlsson, and the always entertaining Micheal Haley.

Arizona (20-30-7) has been one heck of a thorn in the Sharks’ (35-18-6) side during this 2016-17 campaign. Despite leading only the Colorado Avalanche in the cellar of the Western Conference, the Coyotes came into tonight’s tilt leading the season series with the Sharks 3-0-1, not to mention being as hot on offense as anyone in the league, having scored 20 goals in their last five games to go along with a 3-1-1 record.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Sharks came in to Gila River Arena reeling after a tough 1-1-3 five-game stretch and having had an impressive comeback derailed in their last contest. San Jose had recently lost at home on Wednesday against the Panthers in overtime.

If there is a silver lining to be found in the Sharks’ recent struggles, it would be that the Sharks have been taking their losses in OT and picking up points. The offense hasn’t been lacking either, with the Sharks scoring 18 in their last five, but the normally rock-solid Sharks defense and goaltending has been the glaring issue during the same stretch, surrendering 20 goals and allowing 5+ in three of those contests.

In an effort to right the ship before beginning a five-game bye week on Monday, Brent Burns kicked off the night’s scoring while continuing his campaign of terror over the NHL, skating around freely in the Coyotes’ zone, deking through any who dare oppose him, making the effort look like a leisurely stroll in the park. After taking the puck deep and then back up to the point, Burns fired a heat-seeking wrister through the notorious Shark killer, Mike Smith.

Five minutes later Melker Karlsson made the best of a two-on-one opportunity, and a pinpoint pass off the boards from Michael Haley, to beat Smith on the far side in the same place Burns had him earlier. Could it be? Have the Sharks finally found the chink in Mike Smith’s armor? We’ll have to wait till next year to see if this shot selection strategy has any staying power.

The fourth line continued to buzz into the second period after contributing to the first two goals. Haley continued his smooth stick work on the night following up his assist with his first goal of the season, on a one time snipe that beat Smith’s blocker side for the third time in just over 22 minutes.

What made the goal more impressive for Haley was the quick release he displayed on the dump off pass from Paul Martin. Haley has had several chances to end his goal drought this year but has muffed passes on clean attempts or hesitated a beat too long resulting in closed shooting lanes.

As strong as the Sharks’ offense was in the early going, Aaron Dell was equally as fantastic. Before Haley’s lamplighter, Dell kept a puck from crossing the goal line after a Radim Vrbata-induced ricochet dropped just ahead of the line and Dell managed to get his glove down for a freeze. Shortly after the Haley goal Dell came up big again challenging a shot out front and again keeping Arizona from finding pay dirt.

After a goal by Martin Hanzal 30 seconds into the third period gave the Coyotes some life, the game slowed to a snail’s pace with no strong chances by either squad. Vrbata took a high sticking penalty with 3:30 remaining in the contest and Burns immediately made Arizona pay, with a goal on the first shot attempt of the power play to put San Jose up for good 4-1.

#Burns4Hart indeed.

The Sharks return to action tomorrow night in San Jose at 5:30, and will try to avenge their 6-3 beatdown by the Bruins that took place last Thursday in Boston.

Fear the Fin’s 3 Stars

  1. Brent Burns - 2G
  2. Michael Haley 1G 1A
  3. Melker Karlsson 1G 2A

Game Notes

  • Doug Wilson continued the AHL shuffle between the Barracuda and the Sharks, as Nikolay Goldobin marks the ninth Cuda player to be called up to the big club this season.
  • With Burns’ two goals, he moves to within five points of Connor McDavid and three of Sidney Crosby. McDavid (66) Crosby (64) Burns (61)
  • Haley ended his season-long scoring drought tonight, notching a goal in his 44th contest of the year. Every player on the Sharks roster has now recorded a goal this season (except Goldobin, who made his ‘16-’17 season debut tonight).