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by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes
Phoenix Coyotes vs. San Jose Sharks
Coyotes at Sharks Game Recap

By: Chad Lynch
Photos courtesy of the San Jose Sharks
(Rocky Widner & Don Smith)

On Saturday night, the Phoenix Coyotes needed overtime, but continued their domination over the Sharks with a 4-3 win.

Through the first three minutes of the game, the Coyotes and Sharks both struggled to find an offensive rhythm as rushes in to the offensive zone by both teams resulted in broken scoring chances and missed opportunities.

At 3:11 of the opening period, the Coyotes took the first penalty of the game when defenseman Paul Mara was called for holing.  Fortunately for Phoenix, the San Jose power play would only last 43-seconds as the Sharks' Nils Ekman was caught hooking Derek Morris behind the Coyotes net at 3:54, putting both teams at four skaters aside, before giving Phoenix a brief power play of their own.  With the extra attacker, the Coyotes failed to find the back of the net and the game remained scoreless.

Near the 12-minnute mark of the first period, the Coyotes had a trio of good chances from the top of the crease when center Mike Ricci was able to fire off three shots on the San Jose net, but Sharks netminder Vesa Toskala was able to quell the Coyote attack by turning the shots aside and keeping Phoenix off the scoreboard.

The Coyotes went back on the man-advantage with 9:37 to play in the period when San Jose's Kyle McLaren was sent to the box for interference.  With the extra attacker, the Coyotes were able to set up in the San Jose zone and register a couple shots on net, but couldn't generate enough pressure to solve Toskala as McLaren returned to the ice with both clubs still searching for the first goal of the game.

Phoenix would keep the pressure on the Sharks and it would pay off at 14:53 of the first when defenseman Keith Ballard blasted a shot from just inside the blue line that was tipped in front of the net by Steven Reinprecht and past Toskala to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead.  Reinprecht's goal was his 19th of the season and third in the last two games.

The Coyotes and specifically, Josh Gratton showed incredible poise late in the opening period when San Jose brute Scott Parker tried desperately to lull Gratton into dropping the gloves.  Gratton was content to let the Sharks' thug bully himself into a roughing minor at 17:15 of the first.  The Coyotes would be unable to manage another score again in the opening frame as the first period came to an end with Phoenix holding a 1-0 lead.

The second period began with the Coyotes adding to their lead at 2:32 of the period when rookie Bill Thomas, playing in only his second NHL game, made great pass form the left side of the San Jose zone to a streaking Geoff Sanderson, who roofed a shot over the blocker of Toskala for a 2-0 Phoenix lead.  Sanderson's goal was his 24th of the season and Thomas recorded his first career NHL point with his assist.

The Coyotes went back on the power play 30-seconds after the Sanderson goal when Scott Parker was called for holding.  However, the San Jose penalty-killing unit was able to once again hold the Phoenix offense in-check as they killed off the minor infraction and returned to full strength.

After the expiration of the Parker penalty, the Sharks turned the tables on the Coyotes and smothered the Phoenix net and goaltender Curtis Joseph with a series of shots that came within inches of cutting the Coyotes lead in-half, but Joseph continued his stellar play from Thursday night as he kept the puck out of the net and preserved the 2-0 Coyotes lead.

San Jose's Ville Neiminen took his first penalty of the contest at 9:39 of the second when he tripped Phoenix forward Oleg Saprykin as he tried to race into the San Jose zone.  The Coyotes took the extra attacker and tried to add to their lead, but had difficulty even getting deep as the Sharks kept the Phoenix offense frustrated with the extra attacker and returned to full strength only trailing 2-0.

Phoenix gave San Jose a shot at the power play with 7:34 to play in the second as Geoff Sanderson was sent to the box for holding.  The Sharks registered a couple good shots on goal, but it was the Coyotes who would end up converting with Sanderson in the box as Reinprecht broke free for a breakaway at the blue line, waited until Toskala started to move from his left to right, giving Reinprecht all the room he needed to fire the puck through the five-hole for a shorthanded goal, giving Phoenix a 3-0 lead.

That would conclude the scoring in the second period as the Coyotes skated off the ice after 40-minutes of play, holding a 3-0 lead.

San Jose came out firing at the start of the third period and their pressure finally paid off as defenseman Matt Carle blasted a shot that deflected off the stick of Phoenix's Zbynek Michalek and past Joseph to cut the Coyotes lead to 3-1.

After registering their first goal, the Sharks turned up the heat on the Coyotes and sent an all-out attack at the Phoenix net.  San Jose's attack was their most potent and prolonged of the contest as they plastered the net with shots and created havoc in front of the Phoenix net.

Things went from bad to worse for the Coyotes at 8:30 of the third when, with Fredrik Sjostrom still facing 50-seconds on his roughing penalty, Phoenix's Mike Johnson was sent to the box for hooking, giving the Sharks a five-on-three advantage for nearly a minute.  With the two extra attackers, San Jose converged on the Coyotes net and tested "Cujo" with a series of shots from every corner of the Phoenix zone.  But the Phoenix penalty killers held their ground and worked their way back to full strength while still holding on to a two-goal lead.

The pressure facing the Coyotes wouldn't go away and at 11:46 of the third, Phoenix saw their lead slip to a single goal when San Jose's Jonathan Cheechoo moved to the front of the Phoenix net from left to right and backhanded a shot over the blocker of Joseph for his 46th goal of the season.

Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg received a questionable holding call at 14:21 of the third after he worked Ekman off the puck deep in the Phoenix zone, putting the Sharks back on the power play with time running down.  San Jose spent the first minute of their power play unable to get deep into the Coyotes zone as the Coyotes penalty killers stood their ground at the blue line and kept the puck out of their zone.  But in the second minute of the man-advantage, the Sharks were able to get into the offensive zone and Steve Bernier took the puck behind the Coyote goal and fed a centering pass into the slot where San Jose's Scott Hannan snapped a low shot past Joseph to bring the Sharks back and tie the game at 3-3.

The final minutes of the third period would tick away with neither club being able to find the elusive fourth goal and overtime would be needed settle this affair.

The Coyotes began the overtime frame with their best play since the second period as they actually managed to get into the Sharks zone and show moments of offense of their own.

San Jose had a great opportunity to put the Coyotes away with just under four minutes left in overtime when the Sharks had a three-on-one rush into the Phoenix zone. However, the back-checking effort of Mike Johnson helped break up the rush and bring the puck out of the Coyotes zone.

With 2:59 to play in overtime, the Coyotes were given a power play on a hooking call on San Jose's Matt Carle against Geoff Sanderson.  Despite being on the wrong end of a four-on-three, it was San Jose who registered the best scoring chances with Carle in the box as a pivotal odd-man rush in the final minute of the penalty forced "Cujo" to make three point-blank saves to keep the Sharks from capturing victory.

Then with 1:05 left in overtime, the Coyotes put an end to a wild evening when defenseman Derek Morris blasted a shot on goal from the right face-off circle that Toskala stopped, but Reinprecht, who was left alone at the top of crease flipped the puck into the net for his third goal of the game and clinching a 4-3 win for the Coyotes.

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