After Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix knew something had to give. Starting goalie Mike Smith was pulled after giving up three goals on 18 shots, and the loss – the Coyotes' third in four games at Jobing.com Arena – dropped them to 12th in the Western standings.
Phoenix went a long way toward erasing those bad memories with a solid effort against San Jose on Saturday night.
Smith made 32 saves as Phoenix topped the Pacific Division leaders 5-3 for just their 11th win of the season on home ice. Lauri Korpikoski scored two goals, Raffi Torres and Martin Hanzal added one apiece and Radim Vrbata the an empty net for Phoenix (23-21-8), which moved within four points of eighth-place Minnesota.
"San Jose is one of the top teams in the conference, and this is a quality win," Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said. "We harped for three days in practice of being a better and more consistent team and (against San Jose), we did a great job of execution."
After Korpikoski scored the second of his two goals at 8:03 of the third to give Phoenix a 4-2 lead, San Jose rallied with less than a minute to go when Marleau scored after Niemi was lifted for an extra attacker. But Smith shut the door from there, and Vrbata hit the empty net with less than a second to play.
After a scoreless first, the Coyotes scored three goals on six shots to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
Couture gave the Sharks a lead at 3:44 with his team-leading 22nd of the season. After Smith stopped his deflection off a Ryane Clowe blast, Couture regained the puck, made some space and poked it past a prone Smith.
Torres answered 32 seconds later with his eighth goal of the season. Coming across the middle to accept a Michal Rozsival feed, Torres turned in the slot, moved right and blasted a high shot from between the circles past Niemi at 4:16.
"That was a big one," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "You give up that one, and they're back in the game. You take one back right away, and you get momentum back. The ability to jump right back and get momentum back was a big goal."
Korpikoski got in on the act at 9:29. Boyd Gordon and Shane Doan both fought a lone Shark for a puck thrown in deep behind the net; Doan eventually freed it and passed to the low slot, where Korpikoski was waiting to smash it home for his 12th of the season.
San Jose leveled through a power-play strike from McGinn at 12:26, but Hanzal scored the eventual game-winner with just 47 seconds left in the period. A broken play led to a 2-on-1 with Ray Whitney, and Whitney crossed in front of Hanzal. Hanzal caught up to it but lost the angle, and the hopeful shot redirected off Sharks defenseman Brent Burns stick past an unsuspecting Niemi. It was Hanzal's first goal since Dec. 14.
"I saw the goalie coming toward me, so I shot for the far side," Hanzal said. "It's a great feeling to score after missing so many games."
Korpikoski's tip-in in the third should have wrapped it up, but San Jose – in a testament to their offensive prowess – kept pushing, pelting Smith with 11 shots and eventually breaking through with time winding down.
"It wasn't lack of offense," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We had a number of chances and ended up with three at the end. We were not competitive at the times we needed to be competitive."
Smith nearly went home with more than a victory -- with the Coyotes leading 4-2, he flicked a puck from his crease down the ice and just wide of the open San Jose net after Niemi had been pulled.
Korpikoski, who was looking for a hat trick at the time, ribbed Smith after the game for the try.
"He played really well today," said Korpikoski of his goalie. "He's a competitor and he wanted to bounce back more than anybody for us today. He even tried to score a goal there at the end – I was actually open there!"