Photo Credit: Don Smith & Rocky Widner
Phoenix - Mikael Tellqvist
San Jose - Vesa Toskala
On Thursday night, the Phoenix Coyotes fell to their Pacific Division rivals, the San Jose Sharks by the finals score of 5-2.
The Coyotes just missed a great scoring opportunity at the one-minute mark of the opening period as a long pass from Steven Reinprecht inside the Phoenix zone, just sailed beyond the reach of forward Owen Nolan. Nolan would chase the puck down, but was unable to get a shot on goal.
Phoenix's Ladislav Nagy would draw the first penalty of the game when San Jose's Patrick Marleau tripped him to the ice at 2:43 of the first. The Coyotes wouldn't have much success during their first man-advantage of the night, as they were unable to establish a consistent offensive attack.
While the Coyotes were unable to find the offensive success they had hoped for on the power play, they wouldn't have to wait long to take the first lead of the game. At 6:14 of the period, Phoenix forward Kevyn Adams made a cross-ice pass from just inside the Sharks zone to Fredrik Sjostrom on the right side; who quickly released a wrist shot that beat San Jose netminder Vesa Toskala on the glove side for a 1-0 lead.
Just minutes after the Coyotes took the lead on the goal by Sjostrom, the first signs of bad blood between the two division rivals surfaced with Phoenix's Josh Gratton and San Jose's Rob Davison dropping the gloves in the neutral zone. After a brief battle, both men were sent to the box to serve five-minute majors.
The Sharks would even the score at 1-1 at 13:56 of the first when a wrist shot from Ryane Clowe at the top of the left face-off circle was tipped in front by Patrick Marleau and sent past Phoenix goaltender Mikael Tellqvist for his 22nd goal of the season. Unfortunately, the on-ice officials had missed a blatant high-sticking incident just seconds before the goal, where San Jose's Joe Thornton struck Owen Nolan in the face with his stick blade. The contact drew blood from the left side of Nolan's face, but there was no penalty called.
Both teams continued to exhibit a physical style of play, with Coyotes captain Shane Doan leading the way for Phoenix, dishing out a series of bone-crushing hits. The physical play would continue to dominate the final minutes of the first as the period came to a close with the score tied at 1-1.
At 1:52 of the second period, San Jose took a 2-1 lead when a crowd in front of the Phoenix net gave the Sharks' Milan Michalek the opportunity to tip a shot past Tellqvist and into the Coyotes net for his 17th tally of the season.
The Coyotes penalty killing unit would face their second challenge of the night at 4:46 of the second as Oleg Saprykin was assessed a hooking penalty. San Jose would get puck to the net during the man-advantage, including one that somehow trickled through the crease and deflected off the goal post, but the best scoring opportunity would take place at the other end of the ice.
At the six-minute mark of the period, the Coyotes entered the Sharks zone on a two-on-one with Mike Zigomanis and Shane Doan. Zigomanis drew the lone San Jose defenseman to his side before sending a pass over to Doan; who tried to wait-out Toskala before sending a shot top self. However, just before the puck was to enter the net, the sweeping glove-hand of Toskala grabbed the puck for an astonishing save.
As the period approached the halfway point, the Sharks extended their lead to 3-1 when a centering pass from Thornton on the left side was tipped at the top of the crease by Ryane Clowe and sent into the Phoenix net.
Coyotes' blueliner Zbynek Michalek incurred his first penalty of the game at 13:50 of the second when he was called for holding. San Jose would put together their best power play up to that point on the penalty to Michalek, but Tellqvist was nothing short of exceptional, turning aside everything the Sharks threw his way, keeping Phoenix within striking distance.
With four-minutes remaining in the stanza, Owen Nolan came within inches of cutting the deficit to one when he ripped a shot from the top of the slot that beat Toskala on the strong side, before ringing off the crossbar and into the right corner.
Neither the Coyotes nor the Sharks would be able to find the back of the net over the final minutes of the period, forcing the Coyotes to head off the ice after 40-minutes of play trailing by two.
The physical play continued in the third period when Zigomanis absorbed a big check inside the Coyotes zone. Immediately following the hit, Coyotes forward Georges Laraque came to his linemate's defense and quickly restored order on the ice.
At 5:20 of the period, the Coyotes pulled to within one when Jeremy Roenick sent a perfect pass to defenseman Travis Roche in the left face-off circle; where Roche unleashed a blistering shot that beat Toskala and exited the net before the Sharks could react to make it a 3-2 contest.
Moments later, Shane Doan nearly had a great scoring opportunity when he snuck in behind the San Jose defense, received a lead pass and tried to make a break for the net. However, a diving play by San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan, just poked the puck off Doan's stick, nullifying the scoring opportunity.
San Jose would not go into a defensive shell, but rather continued to attack the Phoenix net and at 10:40 of the third, would regain a two-goal lead. This time it would be the Sharks defense that would find the back of the net as rookie Matt Carle's shot form the right side beat Tellqvist's glove hand for his fifth goal of the season and a 4-2 lead for San Jose.
Over the next four minutes, Mikael Tellqvist played some of his best hockey of the night, stopping Thornton twice at the left side of the net as well as a great sliding stop on Clowe to keep the Sharks from adding to their lead.
With less than a minute to play in regulation, the Coyotes pulled Tellqvist from the net in favor of an extra attacker, but Thornton wouldn't let the open net go untouched as his long shot sailed into the entry net for his 13th goal of the season.
The final seconds of the game would expire without incident as the Coyotes fell to their Pacific Division rivals, by the score of 5-2.