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Sharks defeat Coyotes to continue playoff push

by Eric Gilmore / NHL.com

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks know they still need lots of help if they're going to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 11th straight season. They did their part Friday at SAP Center.

The Sharks defeated the Arizona Coyotes 3-1, winning for the fourth time in five games. The Sharks (39-30-9) have 87 points and moved within three of the Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card from the Western Conference; the Kings hold the tiebreaker with 36 regulation/overtime wins to 32 for the Jets.

The Sharks are also four points behind the third-place Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division.

Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Matt Nieto scored for the Sharks, and Antti Niemi made 20 saves.

"You never know what happens," Couture said. "That's basically what we're saying in here. You never know. Give ourselves a chance and you never know."

The Sharks will probably have to win their final four games to have a chance of making the playoffs.

"We haven't really thought about that, that we have to win every game, but that's pretty much the case," Niemi said. "It's more the way we play. We play hard, we hard in the d-zone, you don't make too many mistakes and I think we start from there."

The Sharks and Coyotes finish the home-and-home set Saturday at Gila River Arena.

The Coyotes (23-47-8) lost for the ninth time in 11 games. They have 54 points, fewer than every other NHL team except the Buffalo Sabres, who have 52. Mark Arcobello had the lone goal for Arizona, and backup goaltender Louis Domingue made 34 saves.

"They're a team with lots to play for, and we didn't execute under pressure," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We didn't match their desperation."

The Sharks outshot Arizona 37-21, but they owned a slim 2-1 lead late in the third period before Nieto hammered a rebound past Domingue with 5:50 left in regulation. Domingue stopped Chris Tierney's shot from the left circle but couldn't control the puck, and Nieto scored his ninth goal of the season, all but sealing the win.

"We've got to win tomorrow," Pavelski said. "We'll see what other teams do and all we can do is play."

The Sharks outshot Arizona 16-3 in the first period and built a 2-0 lead on early goals by Couture and Pavelski.

Couture scored 58 seconds into the game on a rush, snapping a shot from the right circle over Domingue's glove and into the upper left corner. Tomas Hertl sent a cross-ice pass to Couture, who controlled the puck with his left skate and quickly fired, scoring his 27th goal of the season.

"Playing with Hertl, he doesn't like to pass on the tape," Couture deadpanned. "He throws all his passes to the feet. I knew it was going there. I'm a lefty in soccer so I'm better with my left foot and was able to kind of put it in a spot where I could get it off quickly. I think I surprised him."

Couture thought right.

"I stayed focused throughout the game," Domingue said. "That first one caught me by surprise. It was a good shot, but I should have been there. I need to be ready for the challenge."

Pavelski made it 2-0 at 5:00 with his team-high 37th goal, which came just seconds after San Jose's first power play expired. Patrick Marleau threaded a pass from below the goal line to Pavelski, who scored on a slap shot from the low slot.

"You know it's over and you're thinking about getting off pretty soon, just with the four forwards," Pavelski said. "You see it goes down. I just hold my position and Patty makes a good play right in there. It was good to see it go in."

Arizona's David Moss put the puck past Niemi at 5:50 of the first period, but the goal was immediately waived off by the referees. A video review confirmed that Moss directed the puck over the goal line with his left hand.

Arizona cut San Jose's lead in half at 2:34 of the second period when Arcobello scored his 16th goal of the season. On a 2-on-1 rush, Arcobello sent a cross-ice pass from the right circle toward Tobias Rieder, who was a step behind Sharks defenseman Brent Burns. Burns reached out and got his stick on the puck, but he deflected it past Niemi.

The Coyotes nearly pulled even with under a minute left in the second period when Shane Doan fired a sharp-angled shot from the left of the crease. Niemi deflected the puck into the air and snagged it with his glove.

Niemi stopped all 11 shots he faced in the third period, and the Sharks held on for the win.

"We talked a while ago about playing well and putting a string of wins together and see what happens," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "The guys have done a good job. I don't think they're getting too far ahead. I don't think we feel any more comfortable now than we did a week ago. We shouldn't. We still need a lot of help."

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