Photos by: Don Smith & Rocky Widney
The first period began with the Sharks aggressively flying around the front of the Coyotes net, trying to find an opening for a high-quality shot.
Phoenix went to work on their first penalty kill of the game at 1:50 of the first when Sean O'Donnell was called for hooking. The penalty would prove costly for the Coyotes as Jonathan Cheechoo grabbed a loose puck at the top of the crease and was able to roof it over a diving Brian Boucher for a 1-0 San Jose lead.
With 14:11 left in the opening period, the Coyotes introduced the physical play into the contest as defenseman Denis Gauthier leveled Cheechoo with a big open-ice hit in the neutral zone.
The Coyotes received their first power play of the contest at 6:27 of the first when San Jose's Niko Dimitrakos was called for holding. Phoenix would only be able to manage one shot on net with the man-advantage as San Jose killed off the penalty and returned to full strength still holding a one-goal lead.
Boucher made a great stop on the door step with just over eight minutes left in the period when Cheechoo grabbed a puck in the slot, raced in and tried to stuff a pair of shots into the Coyotes net, but to no avail.
Near the five-minute mark, San Jose's Joe Thornton sent a wrister from the slot that became lodged in the left leg pad of Boucher to keep it a one-goal contest.
Phoenix got their second man-advantage of the period when San Jose's Scott Hanna was called for interference at 15:55 of the opening frame. The Coyote made a trio of dump-in's, which resulted in quick clearing attempts by the Sharks as Hannan returned to the ice with the Coyotes still trailing by one.
The Sharks nearly increased their lead to two with 1:25 to play in the period as Cheechoo again, beat Boucher, but the puck deflected off the right goal post and into the corner to keep the Coyote within striking distance.
Just when it appeared that the Coyotes would go into the first intermission trailing by one, Coyotes captain Shane Doan took matters into his own hands and fired a hard shot from a steep angle deep in the San Jose zone that found a way through the legs of Nabokov to tie the game at 1-1 with just nine seconds remaining in the opening period.
The final seconds of the first ticked away without incident as the Coyotes and Sharks headed to the locker room after 20 minutes of play tied at 1-1.
The Coyotes went back on the penalty kill early in the second period as Dave Scatchard was called for high-sticking only 37 seconds into the period. During the kill, Boucher made a great diving stop on Cheechoo to keep the game tied at 1-1. In the final seconds of Scatchard's penalty, the Coyotes were called for another penalty as Fredrik Sjostrom was called for tripping at 2:41. Once again, the Sharks took advantage of the power play as Grant Stevenson was able to stuff a puck past Boucher on the right side of the net at 3:13 of the second period for a 2-1 Sharks lead.
At the same time as Stevenson's goal, Phoenix forward Ladislav Nagy was sent to the box for hooking, giving the Sharks their third consecutive power play of the period. This time, the Coyotes penalty-killing unit was able to keep the San Jose attack off balance as Nagy's infraction expired with Phoenix only trailing by a goal.
It appeared that the Coyotes had tied the game at 2-2 with 12:52 to play in the period when Sean O'Donnell's blast from the point was deflected in front and put past Nabokov. After further review it was clear that the puck had deflected off the skate of Shane Doan and despite the absence of a "distinct kicking-motion," the off-ice officials disallowed the goal, keeping it a 2-1 game.
San Jose took their first penalty of the second period at 9:22 when Niko Dimirakos was called for hooking and sent back to the box. While the Coyotes were able to get some pressure on Nabokov and the Sharks defense, they weren't able to capitalize and score the equalizer as the penalty expired and the teams returned to five-on-five play.
As the period continued, the Coyotes dramatically turned up the pressure on the Sharks with the line of Scatchard, Sjostrom and Mike Comrie leading the Charge by putting the puck on net and crashing the goal for rebounds, but Nabokov was able to stay in perfect position and keep the Sharks up by one.
Phoenix went back on the power play at 17:35 of the second when San Jose defenseman Jim Fahey was assessed a minor penalty for interference. The Coyotes continued to drive to the net hard, but couldn't get their second goal of the game.
With just three seconds left in the period, Phoenix was given another power play when Cheechoo was called for interference. The final three seconds of the period ran off and the Coyotes headed to the locker room knowing that they had 1:57 of power play time awaiting them at the start of the final period.
With the Coyotes beginning the third period on the power play, Phoenix received an extra boost as Nabokov was given a penalty for delay-of-game. The Coyotes went to work on the two-man advantage and with 14 seconds left on the original penalty to Cheechoo, Derek Morris blasted a slap shot that beat Nabokov to tie the game at 2-2.
Just prior to Morris' game-tying-goal, San Jose defenseman Kyle McLaren was on a delayed penalty for boarding, which was assessed following the Morris goal, putting the Coyotes back on the power play. The penalty would prove costly again as Derek Morris sent a saucer backhand pass to the front of the Sharks net that was deflected in front by the stick of Shane Doan and past Nabokov, giving the Coyotes their first lead of the game at 3-2.
Less than a minute later at 16:18, Oleg Saprykin blasted a shot form the top of the right face-off circle that Nabokov tipped with his blocker, but the puck then deflected off the boards, bounced back off the right skate of Nabokov and into the San Jose net, giving Phoenix a 4-2 lead.
Just over a minute later at 15:16 of the third, the Coyotes stretched their lead to 5-2 when Paul Mara's dump-in, was deflected by Mike Johnson and re-directed past Nabokov. After giving up his fourth goal in less than three minutes, Nabokov was pulled from the San Jose net in favor of netminder Vesa Toskala.
The goaltending change helped give the Sharks a little time to re-group and with 13:02 left in the frame, a scrum in front of the Coyotes net ended when Boucher thought he had the puck covered, but it was actually loose and wound up on the stick of Nils Ekman, who quickly blasted it into an open net to cut the Phoenix lead to 5-3.
Then with 9:24 left to play in the contest, San Jose's Milan Michalek made a quick move at the Coyotes blue line to get around Derek Morris, break in alone on Boucher and slide the puck past the Coyotes goaltender, trimming the Coyotes lead to 5-4.
The Sharks nearly tied the game with less than six minute to play when Patrick Marleau was left all alone in front of the Coyotes net, but Boucher was able to slide over in time to make the stop and preserve the Coyotes lead.
Keith Ballard and Mike Johnson broke into the Sharks zone on a two-on-one near the four-minute mark. Ballard faked a pass and took the shot, but was stopped by Toskala.
With 3:06 left in the third, the Coyotes penalty-killing unit was call upon again when Boucher played the puck outside of the designated area, resulting in a minor penalty, which was served by Tim Jackman. Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky used his lone timeout to discuss strategy and get a fresh unit of penalty killers on the ice. The Coyotes did an excellent job of killing off the late penalty and keeping the pressure off Boucher and the game entered the final minute of play.
With Vesa Toskala pulled from the San Jose nets for the extra attacker, but the Coyotes were able to commit to defense and hold off the Sharks attack as Phoenix came away with a 5-4 win.
Phoenix will return to Glendale Arena on Thursday, December 29, when they play host to Pacific Division rivals, the Los Angeles Kings. Thursday's game will be a radio-only broadcast and can be heard on KDUS-1060AM, KDKB-93.3FM or on phoenixcoyotes.com by clicking on the "Listen Live" link in the Game Day section.