GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ From the last line to the backup goaltender, the San
Jose Sharks are feeding off their own momentum.
Vesa Toskala made 26 saves and held an opponent to fewer than three goals
for the 14th time in 16 games, and fourth-line center Mark Smith set up the
Sharks' first goal in a 4-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night.
``We played as solid as I've seen us play in a while,'' coach Ron Wilson
said. ``We got a little bad luck late in the game with the two goals, but I
thought we handled ourselves well. Our defense did a great job in our end,
great use of sticks on the puck and scoring was kind of spread around.''
Nils Ekman had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hannan, Jonathan Cheechoo and
Alexander Korolyuk also scored. San Jose is 12-2-1-1 since Dec. 18 and beat
division leaders Vancouver, Colorado and Detroit before playing the Coyotes.
Paul Mara broke up Toskala's shutout bid with 9:34 left, but Korolyuk
answered with 3:56 to go, rendering meaningless a power-play goal by Phoenix's
Shane Doan in the final minute.
``It was the easiest game for me in a long time,'' Toskala said. ``I got a
little sloppy in the end, but we was leading by three goals and they score a
goal, so it's not a big deal.''
Sean Burke stopped 34 shots, but the Coyotes are winless in five games
(0-3-2) after winning a season-high five straight on the strength of Brian
Boucher's five consecutive shutouts.
``There was a lot out of sync,'' Coyotes coach Bob Francis said. ``We
weren't very good. We didn't have much emotion or energy.''
The Sharks were without Patrick Marleau and Marco Sturm, their top two
scorers, for the second time in three games. Marleau's sore knee was bothering
him, while Sturm stayed in the Bay area to be with his wife and newborn son.
The Sharks also struggled on the power play, going 0-for-6. They are
0-for-20 in the last four games and 1-for-30 in eight since Jan. 3. But it had
no effect on their streak.
Hannan, a defenseman, scored on a slap shot 8:44 in, winding up from near
the blue line after Smith beat Phoenix's Mike Sillinger in a faceoff and sent
him the puck. It was the third straight goal by the checking line.
``Smitty wins the draw, and Harv (Todd Harvey) drove to the net and caused a
lot of ruckus in front,'' Hannan said. ``I just saw the lane and shot at the
net. I mean, with that much traffic in front I don't think Burke saw it at
San Jose increased the lead to 2-0 on Ekman's goal, his 13th, a forehand
that he banked off Burke's leg after angling across the slot with 7:58 left in
the first. Cheechoo notched his 14th goal 5:56 into the second.
The Sharks, who had a season-high 45 shots in a 4-4 tie with Phoenix on Oct.
25, took 20 in the second period for another season best. They took them after
killing off two penalties, including 1:24 of a five-on-three advantage, over
the first and second periods.
``In the second period they kind of had some momentum, and they kind of sat
on it for a while,'' Burke said.