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Sharks 3, Coyotes 2 (SO): Dell saves one in shootout, saves Sharks’ bacon in desert

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Aaron Dell is good at hockey.

San Jose Sharks v Arizona Coyotes
Dell does Dell things
Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

Aaron Dell’s save percentage was, per Corsica.hockey, 2.3 percentage points higher than it should have been, given the shots he faced. The performance robbed Arizona of nearly an entire goal and allowed San Jose to add two more points to their bank on a night they were running on empty.

The last time San Jose played Arizona this season, three days ago, it was a doozy. The teams combined to fill the net six times in the opening frame alone, and the final score (a 6-5 OT victory for the Sharks) reflected the entertainment value of the contest. It was a game the Sharks mostly dominated and it was a game Martin Jones would like to forget.

San Jose’s coaching staff didn’t appear to enjoy the goal song bonanza as much as those of us at home did. Toward the end of the game, they wrenched apart the defensively hapless Brenden Dillon/Brent Burns pair and replaced it with the somewhat-more-effective-defensively Joakim Ryan/Burns pair.

Unfortunately, the corresponding Brenden Dillon/Tim Heed pair did not last past the end of the evening, as a freshly activated Dylan DeMelo replaced Heed in the lineup vs. the Kings two nights later. It is odd that a team seeking defensive consistency has decided to look past what was its best defensive depth pairing early in the season.

Tonight’s game would prove to be a dominant showing for the team in red instead of the team in teal.

A lucky draw after a long period of being stuck in their own zone helped the Sharks out of their first trouble of the evening. Christian Dvorak took an offensive-zone penalty, and San Jose’s meat grinder of a power play went to work, turning a sequence of deflected passes into step one of four of a Joe Thornton rooster trick.

Showing signs of life, a feisty Mikkel Boedker scored a lovely little wrister past a defender and over Antti Raanta’s shoulder, proving that with Joonas Donskoi at your side anything is possible. That goal was only the latest sign that just about everything Donskoi does is contagious. Minutes later, Kevin Labanc pulled his greatest trick, convincing two Arizona defenders he didn’t exist, slip-sliding the puck between their legs and sticks and walking into the offensive zone unscathed.

It was clear by watching players’ reactions and decisive, if uncommon, cuts in and out of players that Donskoi’s own dingle-dangle antics have rubbed off on just about everyone. Unfortunately for San Jose fans, the first period was about the only enjoyable part of the evening.

The Coyotes would make it interesting near the end of the second. Ex-Shark Jason Demers picked up the puck toward the end of a power play and skate himself into shooting position. His wrist shot, though a little high and a lot wide, found the stick of Jordan Martinook that, even though it was well outside the goal area, managed to tip the errant puck down and past Aaron Dell.

Arizona’s fourth line took things from interesting to unnerving as Brad Richardson potted Arizona’s second goal off a rebound from Nick Cousins. It was unsurprising that Arizona added a second goal at that point in the game. San Jose looked like a tired team on the second half of back-to-backs.

Road weary, San Jose was lucky to make it out of the third period in a game they were behind on the shot clock from initial puck drop. Early in overtime, San Jose took a penalty in their defensive end after a sprawling save by Dell prolonged the evening momentarily.

It was Dell’s sprawling and eagle-eyed patience that allowed San Jose to slip into the warm Arizona evening with two points. He stopped one shot and definitely inception-ed footsteps into the ears of two other shooters, who missed the net completely.

Though the Coyotes started off the shootout with rookie sensation, Clayton Keller, Joe Pavelski was the only shooter to find the net, bringing home the win for the men in teal.

While the win and two points are important, allowing themselves to be outshot — by the worst team in the league — by 10 shots at 5v5 in regulation is not a positive development. Still, road back-to-back games are the great shot differential equalizer. Perhaps San Jose can chalk up the ugly game to a case of jet lag.