GLENDALE AZ - JANUARY 17: Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrates with teammates Lauri Korpikoski #28 and Taylor Pyatt #14 after Ekman-Larsson scored his first career goal against the San Jose Sharks during the third period of the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on January 17 2011 in Glendale Arizona. The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 4-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Phoenix Coyotes lost in regulation for the first time since the calendar turned over, dropping a Pacific Division match-up with the San Jose Sharks 4-2. The Coyotes offensive explosion from recent games was noticeably absent as was the gritty play of center Vernon Fiddler, who missed his first game after suffering an upper-body injury in his fight with Matt Belesky last game.
The two teams played an even first 20 minutes with the teams trading fluky goals. Patrick Marleau scored for the Sharks with a wrister that got past Ilya Bryzgalov, hit the far post, bounced into Bryz's skates and then trickled across the goal line. The Coyotes responded with a Derek Morris slap shot that hit a Sharks defenseman before going in past Antti Niemi.
The second period saw the Sharks open up a two goal lead with goals from Dany Heatley and Logan Couture. Both were preventable as Coyotes players were caught either watching the puck or failing to make a play to get the puck deep out of the zone. The power play failed to click on a four minute advantage with the score at 2-1 and that really seemed to push the Sharks. Ray Whitney had the best opportunity on the failed power play, but Niemi made a big pad save to prevent the tying goal.
In the third, the Coyotes stormed back a bit, putting ample pressure on the Sharks and getting within one on Oliver Ekman-Larsson's first career goal. The young defenseman ripped a one timer past Niemi off a great feed from Lauri Korpikoski. Unfortunately, the comeback effort got a bit derailed on a questionable delay of game penalty on Shane Doan where it looked like he was out of the defensive zone before clearing the puck over the glass. A missed head shot to David Schlemko from San Jose forward Scott Nichol only added insult to injury. Joe Thornton would ice the game with an empty netter with 40 seconds to play.
The Coyotes have a quick turnaround until tomorrow night's very important match-up with Nashville. Hopefully, Brett MacLean will be back in the lineup to reunite the kid line and maybe get back the offensive jump that was missing in this matinee game.
Bullet Point Notes from the Game:
- Best opportunity early for Shane Doan as he ripped a slap shot past Antti Niemi, but it rang off the post.
- A few minutes later Ray Whitney had a great feed out in front to Lee Stempniak that was sent wide.
- Patrick Marleau, playing in his 1,000th career NHL game (all with San Jose) scored teh opening goal on a sharp angle shot that got past Bryz, hit the post, went back off of Bryz and in.
- After getting some pressure, Derek Morris' point shot hits something in front of the net and gets past Niemi to tie the game at 1. Keith Yandle and Eric Belanger get the assists on the goal.
- Patrick Marleau received a very nice ovation from the fans in attendance as the Coyotes made a very nice mention of his 1,000th career NHL game during a TV timeout. Marleau is the youngest player to achieve this milestone all with the same organization. Classy Move Phoenix!!!
- First penalty of the game not called until five seconds left in the first period - Sami Lepisto called for interference on Jamal Mayers - had to take that penalty because Mayers was off to the races otherwise.
- Bad play at the defensive blue line lets the Sharks walk in Logan Couture feeds Dany Heatley and Heatley dekes around Bryzgalov and puts it home.
- Coyotes first power play unit can't even get into the zone during the first power play opportunity. Second unit not doing much better. Joe Thornton had the best shot on Niemi during the power play firing one into the crease from the corner boards.
- Radim Vrbata takes a brutal high stick to the face from Heatley - four minute power play coming to the Coyotes. Needs to be better than the last man advantage.
- Niemi completely stones Whitney on the man advantage making two big saves; then he steps up to stop a pair from Eric Belanger - much better pressure on this power play. Still can't convert on the power play, but Niemi forced to make a number of big saves - Coyotes need to keep bringing the pressure.
- Very sketchy cross checking penalty on David Schlemko late in the second - looked like he just leaned into him.
- On the ensuing power play, Logan Couture scored his 20th goal of the season converting a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play with Dan Boyle and Heatley. Bryz had no chance on that one.
- Coyotes come out buzzing in the third, although most shots seem forced and from the outside. Early power play as Joe Pavelski is called for a trip.
- Marleau had a strong shorthanded rush that Bryz turned aside.
- Great shot on the power play as Yandle streaks in from the point only to ring it off the post. Turris gets a rebound opportunity, but Niemi is able to smother it.
- Coyotes can't seem to settle the puck down and get a concentrated rush through the first half of the period. They are skating a bit better than in the first 40 minutes, but they still can't seem to get any good pressure into Niemi's crease. The lone positive is that they are chasing the play a bit less than they had been.
- David Schlemko takes a head shot from Scott Nichol...not surprisingly no refs saw it and no penalty is called.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson after fanning on a great feed from Vrbata from behind the net then fires a blast off a feed from Lauri Korpikoski for his first career NHL goal. Great pressure from the Coyotes as they wake up the sparse crowd at Jobing.com Arena.
- Shane Doan erases the momentum with a delay of game penalty firing the puck over the glass. Coyotes need a big penalty kill here. Looks on replay as if Doan was completely out of the defensive zone, so that should not have been a penalty.
- With just over 2 minutes left in the game, a great individual effort by Scottie Upshall led to a good scoring opportunity, but Niemi smothered it. Big post-whistle scrum, but no penalties come from it.
- With Bryz on the bench, Coyotes get another push and OEL fires one at the net which becomes dislodged as the teams jostle for the puck in the crease.
- Joe Thornton ices it with an empty netter as Doan made an ill-advised blind pass while chasing the puck into the defensive zone. Coyotes comeback will fall short.
OUR THREE STARS
1 - Antti Niemi - 34 saves, including at least 6 during the Coyotes 4 minute power play in the second that kept the Sharks in the lead. He wasn't giving up playable rebounds and was big enough in net to get the win.
2 - Patrick Marleau - had the opening goal that really seemed to get the Coyotes chasing all night along with playing in that 1,000th game.
3 - Oliver Ekman-Larsson - first career NHL goal and solid play throughout in both zones.
COMMENT OF THE NIGHT
If DOan had half his post shots go in he’d be leading the league in goals…
-Travis Hair [as Carl responded, truth]
Back at it tomorrow night with the game day thread. Travis is on recap duty as I'll be at the game but not in the press box and since I am likely going to need to head out to Florida later this week, I'll probably disappear for a few days as well. Hopefully this will just be a blip on the radar and the dominant Coyotes team returns tomorrow night.