By: Sergei Kocharov
Photos by Norm Hall
The Phoenix Coyotes remain a mystery for the San Jose Sharks.
Mike Comrie scored two goals and goaltender Curtis Joseph made 34 saves as the Coyotes defeated their Pacific Division rivals the San Jose Sharks 6-2 to start a crucial 10-game homestand.
"We did a lot of things very well tonight," said Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky. "Curtis was outstanding, he played really well and we skated exceptionally well. This was a big game for us."
Keith Ballard also scored and had two assists for the Coyotes, who scored three goals in the second and third periods to remain undefeated against the Sharks this season (4-0).
"It was a hard-fought game and we didn't make many mistakes," said Comrie. "Our penalty kill was tremendous and (Joseph) was the big difference when we needed him."
The Coyotes never trailed and scored their first two goals of the game in a 48-second span in the second period. Comrie opened the scoring for Phoenix when he banged in a rebound past starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov, who had trouble controlling his rebounds most of the game, was pulled after Fredrik Sjostrom scored his third goal of the season on a shot that Nabokov couldn't handle with his glove, resulting in another rebound.
The move, somewhat, surprised Joseph.
"I didn't think he played very bad at all," said Joseph of Nabokov, who stopped 12 of 14 shots before being replaced by Vesa Toskala. "There could be other reasons, but you never know."
Joseph made most of his saves on a five-on-three penalty kill midway through the second period. Making stop after stop from point blank range, Joseph preserved the Coyotes' lead with help from his defensemen who were instrumental in blocking shots.
"It was a big 5-on-3 kill and we needed it," said Comrie. "The guys were sacrificing their bodies and (Joseph) made some excellent saves."
The Coyotes extended their lead to 3-0 on Mike Johnson's short-handed effort at the 11:51 mark of the period. After a San Jose turnover in the Coyotes' end, Ballard took the puck, raced down the ice and fed Johnson who went backhand-to-forehand to beat Toskala for his 13th goal of the season.
"I hope they (San Jose) decide to hold themselves accountable," frustrated Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson said. "We had a decent first period and then we came out and made soft plays."
Mike Ricci, Comrie and Ballard all scored in the third period for the Coyotes, who were six-for-six on the penalty kill. Ballard scored the game's most impressive goal, as he blocked a shot at his own end before making an end-to-end rush where he fired a laser past Toskala to give Phoenix a 4-0 lead.
"They were trying to press a little bit," said Ballard. "I was trying to get in front of the puck and their defensemen were up in the play and it was a good opportunity for me to take advantage."
Geoff Sanderson, who suffered a lower body injury in the game at St. Louis on Thursday night, did not play for Phoenix. It is believed that Sanderson will return either on Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings or on Saturday versus the Minnesota Wild. Forward Steve Gainey was listed as a healthy scratch.
THE 700 CLUB
Coyotes captain Shane Doan played in his 700th NHL game on Saturday night. Doan, who spent his entire career with the Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets, ranks fourth on the franchise's all-time games played list.
Through 51 games of the Coyotes' season, three players have skated in all of the club's games in 2005-06: Doan and rookie defensemen Keith Ballard and Zbynek Michalek.
The Coyotes continue on their franchise-long 10-game homestand when they return to Glendale Arena on Sunday night to face-off against the Edmonton Oilers. The game time is set for 6:00 p.m. Catch all the action on Arizona 3 or listen to the game on KDUS-1060AM, KDKB-93.3FM or on phoenixcoyotes.com by clicking on the "Listen Live" link in the Game Day section.