Photo Credit: Norm Hall
COYOTES STARTING LINE-UP
(LW) Donald MacLean - (C) Yanic Perreault - (RW) Georges Laraque
(D) Zbynek Michalek - (D) Ed Jovanovski
Phoenix - Curtis Joseph
San Jose - Evgeni Nabokov
On Saturday night, the Phoenix Coyotes turned in one of their best efforts of the season, but were unable to score a tying goal late as they fell to their Pacific Division rivals, the San Jose Sharks by the score of 2-1.
The Coyotes took control of the game off the opening draw as they quickly set-up in the offensive zone and tested San Jose netminder Evgeni Nabokov with the first shot of the game. Over the course of the next five minutes, the Coyotes would add a pair of shots while keeping the Sharks offense neutralized. Despite the early pressure by Phoenix, the Sharks kept the Coyotes from capturing the first goal of the game.
At 7:48 of the period, the Coyotes received the first power play of the game on a play where Phoenix forward Mike Zigomanis crashed the net and ran into Nabokov, sending him sprawling to the ice. In retaliation, Mark Bell gave Zigomanis a shot in the crease; the Sharks' Mike Grier quickly joined Bell in his harassment of Zigomanis. The end result was minor penalties for all three participants, giving the Coyotes the man-advantage.
Just 21-seconds in to the Phoenix power play, the Sharks made a second trip to the box when defenseman Scott Hannan was called for holding, giving the Coyotes 1:39 of five-on-three hockey. Even with two extra attackers, Phoenix would only manage two shots on goal during the entire power play as San Jose closed off all shooting lanes and forces passes away from the Sharks net, until they could return to full strength.
Phoenix would get another power play opportunity at 11:13 of the period when San Jose's Matt Carle was called for hooking. On the ensuing man-advantage, it appeared the Coyotes had taken a 1-0 lead when a centering pass from the right side deflected off the right skate of Donald MacLean and found its way past Nabokov and into the Sharks net. However, the on-ice officials immediately waived off the goal, keeping the game tied at 0-0.
The Sharks would have a golden opportunity to take control of the game during the final five minute of the opening frame when the Coyotes took a pair of penalties 63 seconds apart, leaving San Jose with a five-on-three advantage for 57 seconds. But despite a flurry of activity around the Phoenix net, goaltender Curtis Joseph stood his ground and kept the Sharks off the scoreboard.
Just when it looked as thought the first period would come to an end with neither team finding the back of the net, the Coyotes capitalized on an odd man rush when Oleg Saprykin's centering pass was deflected by Yanic Perreault in the slot and rushed past a stunned Nabokov, for a 1-0 lead at 19:08 of the period. The goal was Perreault's first since joining the Coyotes.
The final 52 seconds would quickly run off the clock and Phoenix left the ice after 20 minutes of play, holding a one-goal lead over their Pacific Division rivals.
The second period began with a change in the San Jose net as Vesa Toskala took over for Nabokov who remained in the locker room.
Phoenix came within inches of adding to their lead just 1:30 into the period when Zigomanis blasted a slap shot that beat Toskala and ricocheted off the goal post.
The Sharks would climb back into the game and even the score at 1-1 with 16:02 to play in the second when Steve Bernier redirected a shot from Hannan past Joseph and into the net.
After the goal by Bernier, the two clubs traded a series of scoring chances, but neither would be able to create and sustain enough offensive pressure to take the lead.
At 10:34 of the period, the Sharks took advantage of a three-on-two rush when Patrick Marleau one-timed a feed from Milan Michalek over the glove hand of Joseph, giving San Jose their first lead of the night at 2-1. Forward Steve Bernier received the secondary assist on Marleau's team-leading 11th goal of the season.
The Coyotes penalty-killing unit would be called into action for the only time during the second period at 13:13, when Georges Laraque was sent to the box for interference. Phoenix went to work protecting Joseph and keeping the Sharks offense off balance as they effective killed off the infraction and returned to full strength.
The remainder of the period featured a series of rushes by both teams, but little offense as both squads commitment to defense dominated play until the period came to an end. After 40 minutes of play, the two teams headed off the ice with San Jose leading by one.
The Coyotes took an early penalty in the third period when Ed Jovanovski was called for tripping, 36 seconds into the frame. While shorthanded, Fredrik Sjostrom had a good scoring opportunity in front of the Sharks net, but his backhand attempt was kicked aside by Toskala and carried out of the San Jose zone.
At 3:43 of the period, San Jose forward Curtis Brown was assessed an interference penalty, putting the Coyotes back on the power play. Phoenix would struggle to find an offensive rhythm during their man-advantage; consequently, they would be unable to tie the game on the penalty to Brown.
Just seconds after the Sharks returned to full strength, Coyotes forward Enver Lisin make a good move to get around a San Jose defender and fire a shot on net, but Toskala answered with a glove save, resulting in a stoppage of play.
As had been the case in the first two periods of play, the Coyotes continued to outshoot the Sharks in an attempt to even the score, but Toskala was turning aside everything that Phoenix brought his way.
With 55 seconds left in the game, Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky used his lone timeout to pull Joseph from the net and rest his top line, but once play resumed, Phoenix struggled to establish a credible scoring opportunity as time ran out and the Coyotes fell to San Jose by the score of 2-1.
During Saturday night's game, Coyotes center Dave Scatchard left the game early in the third period with a leg injury. Scatchard will be re- eval uated by the Coyotes medical staff on Sunday and is currently listed as day-to-day.
Saturday's game marked the first meeting of the season between Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek and his younger brother, San Jose forward, Milan.
While the Sharks escaped with the victory, it was Zbynek who shouldered the larger workload, logging over 28 minutes of ice time.