With only two games remaining, the Arizona Coyotes began their final trip to the Shark Tank in Southern California to face off against their divisional rivals, the San Jose Sharks. This match-up is the first of two games played in San Jose this weekend to finish off the Covid-19 shortened NHL season.
The pace of play was less than stellar on both ends of the ice for both teams in the opening minutes of tonight’s match-up, with both teams testing AHL call-ups in their first NHL games. The Sharks and Coyotes’ new call-ups took a little time to adjust to the change of pace that the NHL provides. And many moments left viewers wondering if the men on the ice had replaced the steel of their skate blades with sticks of butter following a multitude of individuals falling on open ice unimpeded.
Shots were at a premium early for both teams. Turnovers in the neutral zone by Arizona lead to scoring opportunities for the San Jose Sharks, but these chances were thwarted by Darcy Kuemper.
Kuemper remained perfect in net for just under four minutes into the game until Erik Karlsson capitalized on the game’s first goal with 16:13 remaining in the first period, giving San Jose an early 1-0 lead. The goal was assisted by Tomas Hertl.
Less than two minutes after the Karlsson goal, a slashing penalty was called against Coyotes’ center Lane Pederson, with 14:47 remaining in the first period. The Sharks have struggled on the power play this season, ranking 28th in the NHL, and the Coyotes rank 14th on the penalty kill this season. The Yotes only allowed one shot-on-goal during the first penalty of the game, easily killing the early San Jose power play.
The Desert Dogs’ Michael Bunting tried his very best to get Arizona on the score sheet throughout the early parts of the first period but couldn’t take advantage of shots in close. Except for the early Karlsson goal, a lack of scoring opportunities was the theme for the entirety of the first period due to a plethora of turnovers by both teams paired with exceptional play in net by Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper and San Jose’s Josef Korenar.
With 6:15 remaining in the first period, Arizona took their second penalty of the night on a hooking call against Michael Chaput. Arizona continued to suffocate San Jose’s offense on the penalty kill, successfully killing the second penalty of the night.
The rest of the period was highlighted by a scary scene when Sharks left-winger John Leonard’s skate stuck in the ice, dropping Leonard to his knees, which resulted in an uncontrollable slide face-first into the boards. Leonard was down on the ice for a few minutes before eventually walking to the locker room with the assistance of the San Jose medical team. Leonard would not return for the remainder of the game.
No other scoring plays occurred in the final minutes of the period, and the score after the opening twenty minutes was 1-0 in favor of the San Jose Sharks.
First Period Stats:
SOG- SJ 9 ARI 6
Hits- SJ 3 ARI 2
Face-off Wins- SJ 7 ARI 8
PIM- SJ 0 ARI 4
The speed of the game was not an issue in the second period for either team. Erik Karlsson came out of the locker room looking for his second goal of the night less than a minute into the second period, but his shot was stuffed by Kuemper.
Shot numbers rose for both sides with no goals scored until Sharks right winger Timo Meier found the back of the net with 16:30 left in the second period. This goal was Meier’s 11th of the season and it was assisted by Ivan Checkovich.
A multiple-goal deficit is far from unseen for Arizona this season, and the experience playing from behind has led the Desert Dogs to being the top team in the NHL in come from behind wins. This statistic exists thanks to efforts similar to what happened over the eight minutes of play following the 2-0 deficit.
With 15:01 left in the period, Arizona found the score sheet for the first time of the night with a Victor Söderström goal. The goal cut the scoring deficit to 2-1 and was the first real shift in momentum towards Arizona’s direction in the game.
Victor Soderstrom gets his 1st NHL goal on this sick shot! pic.twitter.com/lFusqIh4z5— Bally Sports Arizona (@BallySportSAZ) May 8, 2021
This was a landmark moment in Söderström’s career, his first NHL goal, and his first point of his career. It came just three games into his NHL career, his first game since being recalled from the Tuscon Roadrunners. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland assisted.
The ice was tilting in favor of Arizona when San Jose’s Brent Burns was called for slashing with 10:30 left to play in the period. This is the first time we would see Arizona’s 16th ranked power play unit on the ice this evening.
Under a minute into their first penalty kill chance, the Sharks were hit with another penalty call when Tomas Hertl was called for high sticking with 9:32 left in the period. This penalty provided a 1:02 5-on-3 power play opportunity for Arizona.
With 8:46 on the clock, Conor Garland found the back of the net with a goal set up by Jakob Chychrun and erased the San Jose lead completely with just four seconds remaining on the 5-on-3 man advantage for Arizona.
NHL Video Highlight - Jakob Chychrun sets up Conor Garland's one-timer for a goal on a 5-on-3 power play that ties the game 2-2 in the 2nd. pic.twitter.com/0ppMp5k48q— Coyotes Game Bot (@CoyotesGameBot) May 8, 2021
Another multiple-goal deficit was wiped away, and the game was then tied at 2-2. Arizona was unable to score in the final portion of the power play.
The Desert Dogs took their third penalty of the night with 1:31 remaining on a Christian Fischer tripping minor. San Jose had a few scoring chances during their man advantage, but were unable to find the net. The period came to a close with the scoreboard showing a 2-2 tie and 0:29 remaining on the Sharks power play.
Second Period Stats:
SOG- SJ 18 ARI 18
Hits- SJ 8 ARI 7
Face-off Wins- SJ 25 ARI 17
PIM- SJ 4 ARI 6
Both teams exited their respective locker rooms eyeing separation in the final twenty minutes of play. Arizona got the jump early and finished killing off the San Jose power play just under thirty seconds into the final period.
Arizona’s locker room conversation must have been effective as the Coyotes’ defense was stifling in the opening minutes of the third period. San Jose couldn’t maintain possession in the neutral zone for a substantial amount of time, and the Coyotes did not take long to shape these turnovers into real scoring opportunities.
Only a few minutes had passed in the third when Arizona’s Phil Kessel was set up nicely for a 1-on-1 goal scoring chance, but was stopped cold by Josef Korenar on a leg pad deflection. The missed scoring opportunity was one that would not be easy to forget, but fortunately for Kessel, it wouldn’t take long to redeem himself.
15:07 remained in the game when Kessel found himself in yet another 1-on-1 match-up against Korenar, but this time, Kessel was victorious. Kessel put the puck in the top shelf right next to the cookie jar, resulting in a 3-2 Coyotes lead.
Victor Söderström’s first NHL goal would not be the only milestone of the night, as the Phil Kessel goal eclipsed multiple career milestones. Kessel’s 19th goal of the season was his 9th goal against San Jose, which is now the most goals scored against San Jose by any single player in a single season in the franchise’s 30-year history. It was also Kessel’s 900th career NHL point.
As time continued to tick down, San Jose’s shot numbers climbed, and Erik Karlsson found the net for the second time this evening with 12:14 left in the game. Following an offsides challenge by Rick Tocchet, the goal was waived off, and the Coyotes lead stayed safe at 3-2.
Just two minutes after the Karlsson goal was erased from the scoreboard, Arizona extended its lead to 4-2 after Michael Bunting scored his 10th goal of the season. Bunting was a contributor throughout the game offensively but was unable to find pay dirt until his 2-on-1 breakaway goal was assisted by Conor Garland.
Bunting’s 10 goals this season ranks 6th on the team in goals scored despite only being on the roster since March 31st.
Darcy Kuemper was a man on a mission in the final ten minutes of play, stopping anything that came close. The Sharks sent Korenar to the bench in exchange for another attacker with 1:30 left in the final period. Arizona’s Jan Jeník added another milestone to the Desert Dogs’ night as he scored an empty-net goal with under one second left to play, his first career NHL goal. Jeník’s goal pushed the lead to 5-2, which would be the final score.
SOG- SJ 28 ARI 34
Hits- SJ 11 ARI 11
Face-off Wins- SJ 33 ARI 28
PIM- SJ 4 ARI 6
1. Phil Kessel (ARI)
2. Conor Garland (ARI)
3. Timo Meier (SJ)
The Coyotes will face off against the San Jose Sharks on the road for their final game of the season tomorrow night at 7:30 PM Arizona time.