Quick Bites: Sharks buzz at Mullett
You never forget your first time in ... Tempe?
The San Jose Sharks kicked off the second half of the 2022-23 season at the smallest arena in the NHL, Arizona State University’s Mullett Arena, the Tempe home of the Arizona Coyotes.
After Nick Bonino and Mikey Eyssimont found multiple net-front chances in the first few minutes of the game, San Jose’s early aggression resulted in Kevin Labanc scoring his 10th goal of the season 4:39 into the game, assisted by linemates Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier. Less than two minutes later, weak blue line puck management enabled Arizona’s Barrett Hayton to score a breakaway goal, his fourth tally of the season. With 3:39 left in the period, Christian Fischer netted his eighth goal this season to put the Coyotes up 2-1.
Eyssimont took on Josh Brown in a fight at the end of the second period, but the Sharks newbie was taken down. In the second period, the only goal scored was a highlight reel move by Nico Sturm, a delightful backhander for his 10th goal of the season. All-in-all, it was an unlucky 20 minutes for the ‘Yotes, with the team hitting a post on a shorthanded 2-on-1 and Jakob Chychrun headed to the dressing room after blocking a one-timer from Mario Ferraro; the defender returned to the game in the third period.
Nico Sturm gets his 10th goal of the season to tie the game pic.twitter.com/QEPRpIFmYI— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) January 11, 2023
San Jose took back the lead just nine seconds into the final period on Matt Nieto’s eighth goal of the season, then killed off a pair of penalties before Jaycob Megna’s first goal of the year made the score 4-2. The game ended with backup goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen making a series of tough saves with an extra Arizona skater on the ice.
The Sharks may gain some momentum from beating a fellow basement dweller, but in the battle for Bedard, you can mark this game as a loss.
Struggling special teams
While San Jose was unable to score a goal on two power play chances, the Coyotes couldn’t strike on the advantage across four chances. Four is a larger number than two, which obviously means that the Sharks’ special teams are back, baby!
Well, maybe there’s still some room to improve — San Jose failed to record a shot on goal on its first power play.
Is Kevin Labanc good again?
Kind of, yeah! Labanc scored a goal and assisted on Megna’s insurance marker. Even though he played on the first line, his 11:18 of ice time was the third lowest on the team, yet he was one of three players in the game to score two points along with Arizona’s Gostisbehere and Chychrun.
Labanc's 10th goal of the season gets the Sharks on the board pic.twitter.com/0tiNBjA9vw— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) January 11, 2023
Labanc did mismanage the puck in the first period to allow the Desert Dogs to score their second goal, but his goal and assist — both at even-strength — made Fischer’s tally a meaningless one.
New arena, who dis?
Arizona was a bit more “party in the back” than “business in the front” tonight. While they ended the first period up 2-1, that would prove to be the team’s last lead of the night, and the Coyotes fell to 7-5-2 at Mullett Arena, despite getting the arena pumped up with a strong start.
- Again, what a goal by Sturm. From the between-the-legs pass to himself, to the successful second backhand chop, it felt like the play was happening in slow motion.
- In his 800th game, Nick Bonino tallied an assist on Sturm’s goal. Neat!
- The Sharks have the highest scoring defensive core in the league, and last night Jaycob Megna found his first of the year to join them.
- The Sharks’ in-arena commentators praised the intimate nature of the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena and cited a reportedly common NHL player opinion: that Arizona’s tiny rink might have the best ice in the league./