Photo Credit: Don Smith & Rocky Widner
Phoenix - Curtis Joseph
San Jose - Vesa Toskala
On Thursday night, the Phoenix Coyotes played perhaps their best road game of the season, capturing a dramatic 3-2 win over their Pacific Division rivals, the San Jose Sharks.
The Coyotes hit the ground running off the opening face-off as forward Mike Zigomanis and Oleg Saprykin had scoring chances from in-close, but San Jose netminder Vesa Toskala kept the Coyotes off the scoreboard through the first minute of action.
Phoenix demonstrated that in addition to their offensive style of play, they were going to make the Sharks pay the price physically as well. Coyotes blueliner Matt Jones drove this point home when he drilled Sharks forward Steve Bernier into the boards and onto the ice, early in the period.
At 5:43 of the first, the Coyotes penalty-killing unit would take their first assignment as left wing Fredrik Sjostrom was sent to the box for interference. The Sharks power play would do a good job of keeping the puck inside the Phoenix zone; due largely to a series of precision passes from around the net. However, Coyotes goaltender Curtis Joseph would calmly keep the San Jose offense contained as the penalty to Sjostrom came to an end.
San Jose would follow suit at 11:42 of the first when forward Jonathan Cheechoo received a tripping penalty, bringing the Phoenix power play onto the ice. It wouldn't take long for the Coyotes to turn the man-advantage into the first goal of the game as defenseman Zbynek Michalek made a great pass from the point, through traffic and on to the blade of Oleg Saprykin's stick; allowing Saprykin to easily tip the puck into the San Jose net for a 1-0 lead.
The Coyotes would do a tremendous job of containing the San Jose offense and limiting the quality shots getting through to Joseph.
Late in the period, Ladislav Nagy tried to set-up linemate Owen Nolan in front of the Sharks goal after taking the puck end-to-end. But the San Jose defense would break up the centering pass just before it reached Nolan, allowing the Sharks to clear the zone and bring the first period to a close.
Nearly two minutes into the second period, the Coyotes appeared to take a two-goal lead when Nagy grabbed a puck in the neutral zone and flipped a lead pass to Shane Doan at the San Jose blueline. Doan skated in alone on Toskala and fired a wrist shot to the glove side, where Toskala knocked it down and fell on top of it as the top half of his body slid into the net. The on-ice off officials did not signal a goal and there would be not review as the Coyotes continued to hold a one-goal lead.
Moments later, at 2:20 of the second, Sharks forward Mike Grier was tossed in the penalty box for hooking, sending the Phoenix power play unit back onto the ice.
Just as they had done in the first period with the extra attacker, Phoenix would again find the back of the net when Saprykin made a smart move with the puck in the slot to drill a shot on goal. Toskala made the initial save, but the rebound came out to Doan, who was able to toss the puck into the net for a 2-0 Coyotes lead. Oleg Saprykin and Zbynek Michalek both record their second points of the night on Doan's seventh tally of the year.
Shortly after Doan put Phoenix on top by two, Zbynek Michalek continued his strong play, this time on the defensive side when he made a diving play in his own end to break-up a two-on-one with Sharks' Patrick Marleau and Steve Bernier.
A little over four minutes into the frame, Mike Comrie tried to establish a three goal lead when a long pass through the neutral zone by Keith Ballard, was taken by Comrie and blasted on net, only to be blocked by Toskala.
With 14:20 left in the period, San Jose's Mark Bell nearly put the Sharks on the scoreboard when he grabbed the puck at the right side of the net and tried to stuff it past Joseph. Fortunately, "Cujo" was able to hold his ground and keep Phoenix up by two.
The Sharks offense would eventually find a way to cut into the Coyotes lead when rookie Joe Pavelski's shot from the left side of the net hit the post and fell by hind the Phoenix goal, Pavelski quickly captured his own rebound and fed a pass to Joe Thornton at the side of goal, who tipped the puck past Joseph as San Jose cut the Coyotes lead to 2-1.
Zbynek Michalek showed no mercy on his younger brother at 12:10 of the first as his caught him in the face with his stick, resulting in a San Jose power play. The Coyotes penalty-killing unit returned to the ice and turned in and encore performance as they kept the Sharks offense for tying the game and returned to full strength.
Late in the period, Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris would be assessed an interference penalty, giving the Sharks a key power play. The Coyotes would be able to hold off the San Jose attack for most of the penalty, but with 13-seconds remaining, at 19:42 of the period, Sharks rookie defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic knocked a loose puck in the Coyotes crease into the net to tie the game at 2-2 after 4-minutes of play.
With just over two minutes gone by in the third period, Ladislav Nagy carried the puck in on the Sharks goal from the left side where he followed up his shot by charging into Toskala and knocking the San Jose netminder to the ice. Despite the added effort by Nagy, the puck eluded the back of the net and the game remained tied at 2-2.
Over the next three minutes, the Sharks' Joe Pavelski and Coyotes' Mike Zigomanis would trade minor penalties, but neither club would be able to take full advantage, preserving the tied game.
At the 12-minute mark of period, Sharks forward Mark Bell captured a turnover by Dennis Seidenberg just outside the Phoenix blueline, allowing Bell to race into the left face-off circle and hammer a shot on goal, that Joseph absorbed in his mid-section before a whistle brought about a stoppage in play.
As the final five-minutes of the period approached, the Coyote began to rely heavily on the play of Joseph as he sustained multiple scoring chances, but refused to give an inch and kept the game tied.
The Coyotes were determined not face overtime for a second consecutive night and Yanic Perreault made sue they wouldn't have to at 19:20 of the period; as the Phoenix center grabbed a loose puck behind the San Jose net and quickly wrapped the puck around the far left goal post and into the net for a 3-2 lead.
Over the final 40-seconds of the game, the Sharks threw everything they had at the Phoenix net in a desperate attempt to even the score, but the Coyotes withstood the pressure and held on for a 3-2 win over the Sharks.