GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 29: Derek Morris #53 of the Phoenix Coyotes is honored for playing in his 1,000th career NHL game before the game against the San Jose Shark at Jobing.com Arena on March 29, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
It was nothing short of a playoff game and a must-win game for the Phoenix Coyotes as they hosted the San Jose Sharks who were coming off of a loss in Anaheim last night. The well-rested Coyotes welcomed back to the lineup Radim Vrbata, Shane Doan and Adrian Aucoin and all three would have strong games, with Vrbata taking the cake. In an all around team effort, the Coyotes pushed the Sharks out of a playoff spot, leapfrogging both the Sharks and idle Los Angeles to move into the 7th spot in the Western Conference with a 2-0 shutout victory.
San Jose controlled most of the play in the first period and it was Mike Smith, en route to his 6th shutout and 34th win of the season that kept the Coyotes in the game. In the second period, Radim Vrbata cashed in on his first game back from injury with a power play goal on a crash the net type of play. The Sharks continued to pressure, but nothing could get past Smith.
In the third, a perfectly executed 2-on-1 with Ray Whitney feeding Radim Vrbata gave the Coyotes a 2-0 lead and all the cushion they would need to finish the game off. For the Wizard, the two assists take him to 999 career NHL points. The prime line with Vrbata, Whitney and Hanzal were clicking all night, but the other units, particularly Antoine Vermette-Mikkel Boedker-Lauri Korpikoski was also excellent.
Bullet Point Notes From the Game:
- First HUGE break of the game goes to the Coyotes as somehow Martin Havlat misses a wide open net from right up close with Mike Smith sprawling.
- Mike Smith is bailing the Coyotes out big time in the first here. Lots of huge saves as the puck just seems to be coming at him from all angles.
- Mikkel Boedker with a great chance on a breakaway, but the end of Antti Niemi's stick just clips the puck from Boedker as he deked Niemi out of his pants.
- Scoreless after 1: SOG - 15-9 Sharks; Hits 21-5 Coyotes (really?!?!); Faceoffs 12-10 Sharks; Blocked Shots 9-5 Sharks.
- Patrick Marleau takes a boarding penalty for the first power play of the game and the Coyotes make them pay quickly as Radim Vrbata breaks a fairly lengthy scoreless streak with his 31st goal of the season. 1-0 Coyotes!
- Martin Hanzal to the box on a pretty questionable hooking call against Joe Pavelski; first PK of the game for Phoenix. More of the same for Phoenix as Mike Smith makes a few big saves en route to a successful kill.
- End of two periods, still 1-0 Coyotes: Shots - 24-22 Sharks; Hits - 27-14 Coyotes; Faceoffs - 25-19 Sharks; Blocked Shots - 12-8 Sharks.
- Coyotes with a scary good 2-on-1 as Ray Whitney feeds Vrbata for the one time punch in to a WIDE open cage. 2-0 Coyotes!
- And that's it...some good times with the final minute as Whitney tried to get Vrby the hat trick and Vrby tried to get Whitney his 1000th point. Regardless, Coyotes keep Sharks off the board.
Our Three Best Players
1. Mike Smith - keeps the team in the game for the first 20 minutes and lets them get the lead; 6th shutout of the year.
2. Radim Vrbata - 2 goals (both goals for the Coyotes); welcome back to the lineup.
3. Ray Whitney - primary helpers on both of Vrby's goals; now has 999 career points.
Comment of the Night
Imagine the slashing.
For the San Jose reaction, check out Fear the Fin.
The Coyotes remain at home for a few more contests including Fan Appreciation Night against the Anaheim Ducks who are looking to play spoiler to the Coyotes playoff run and the season home finale against Columbus who has had the Coyotes number all season long.