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Sharks edge Coyotes in shootout

by Eric Gilmore
SAN JOSE – They needed a shootout to do it, but the San Jose Sharks snapped their three-game losing streak to the Phoenix Coyotes and earned two huge points Saturday night in the ever-tightening Western Conference playoff race with a 4-3 victory at HP Pavilion.

Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe beat Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith in the first two rounds of the tiebreaker, and Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi rejected Mikkel Boedker and Ray Whitney.

Handzus and Clowe are now both 5-for-10 in the shootout this season.

Clowe was hit in the forehead by a deflected puck midway through the second period and had to leave the game. He was so angry and so worried about the extent of his injury that he smashed his stick on the bench, but he returned for the start of the third period and certainly eased his pain with another shootout goal.
"I was already up to here before the puck hit me in the head. I was ticked off about having to leave the game," Clowe said. "I felt blood and didn't know how bad it was."

Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, Daniel Winnik scored goals for the Sharks. Daymond Langkow, Derek Morris and Lauri Korpikoski scored for Phoenix, which salvaged a crucial point.

The Sharks finished the night in ninth place behind Los Angeles with 86 points, while Phoenix, which returns home to face St. Louis on Sunday, is in seventh with 87.

The Sharks and Coyotes skated to a 3-3 tie through two periods, but neither team scored in the third, and the game went into overtime, which was fitting considering how tight the playoff race has become.

"It's obviously an important game for both teams," Coyotes forward Boyd Gordon said. "It's always a great building to play in. It's loud. I think we put in the effort there. Obviously you'd like to get an extra point in the shootout, but I thought the effort was there and we got a point out of it. Let's move on and get ready for tomorrow."

Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle had a good scoring chance with just less than two minutes left in OT, but Smith made a pad save of his shot from the right circle.

San Jose had numerous chances to snap that tie in regulation. Late in the period they went on their fifth power play of the night after Korpikoski high-sticked Tommy Wingels, but they came up empty for the fifth straight time. Martin Havlat had a wide-open chance from the left circle but misfired.

Earlier in the period, Smith wound up flat on his back in the crease. Sharks center Joe Thornton had the puck to the right of the crease. As the Coyotes' defense collapsed, Thornton sent a pass to Marleau in the low slot as Joe Pavelski rushed the net, but neither Shark could score.

Late in the third, the Coyotes sent a couple dangerous shots Niemi's way but were turned away.

San Jose beat Phoenix 6-3 in the season-opener, but the Coyotes outscored the Sharks 11-3 during their three-game streak, and Smith recorded a pair of shutouts. Phoenix frustrated the Sharks with its deliberate, tight-checking style in those three games, but Saturday night's clash had a different feel and a faster pace.

The Sharks scored as many goals in the first two periods as they did in their previous three games against Phoenix, which was missing captain Shane Doan, who served the second game of his three-game suspension for elbowing Dallas' Jamie Benn in the head on Monday night.

"It was a good tempo, guys were going down, sticks and pucks were hitting faces," Clowe said. "But it was all good. The last two games I like how we're going. When something happens we just forget about it. When we play with this sort of moxie we make it hard on other teams."

The Sharks appeared ready to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission, but Phoenix tied it 2-2 with half a second left on Morris' second goal of the season. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic wasn't able to clear the puck out of the Sharks' end, and Phoenix capitalized. Daymond Langkow sent a pass from near the left boards to a wide-open Morris in the slot, and Morris, playing in his 999th career NHL game, ripped the puck past Niemi.

Then just 49 seconds into the third, Korpikoski put Phoenix up 3-2. Whitney hit him with a pass near the crease, and Korpikoski, who got behind Boyle, jammed the puck into the net, beating Smith.

"We lost some momentum there, there's no doubt about it," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We lost the crowd. That's typical Phoenix. They make you pay for your sloppiness. We didn't use all 60 minutes. We didn't use the last 15 seconds of the first and obviously the first minute or two of the second. That was disappointing. I think we had some players that we normally rely on to be very, very steady and more of a calming influence that had some tough games tonight, but regroup tomorrow and move on. Can't turn the clock back."

McLellan wasn't happy letting Phoenix get a point, but he'll take the two points and a two-game winning streak.

"We obviously didn't play well enough to prevent them from getting one," McLellan said. "On a night when we were at times almost the 'Bad News Bears' there for a little bit, to find a way to get two on those nights is important."

Winnik, a fourth-line winger, got the Sharks even at 5:01 of the second, scoring his second goal in the past two games and second since coming the Sharks from Colorado in a trade at the deadline. Winnik chased down the puck along the right boards, skated above the circle and crushed a slap shot that beat Smith.

Center Andrew Desjardin and Wingels earned assists on Winnik's goal as they helped the Sharks keep control of the puck in the Coyotes' end.

"The line was working real well, trying to generate speed and puck possession," Winnik said. "We were reading each other right. I finally got one the other night, and I'm shooting with more confidence going into these final games."

The Coyotes jumped to a 1-0 lead at 6:31 of the first on Langkow's goal, the start of another strong night for Phoenix's third line. Forward Gilbert Brule tracked down the puck behind San Jose's goal and fed it in front to Langkow, who ripped it past Niemi. Brule and forward Raffi Torres earned assists.

Langkow, Brule and Torres combined for five points Thursday night in a 3-2 win over Colorado.

Marleau answered quickly with his 28th goal of the season at 8:09 of the first, snapping an eight-game goalless streak. He had just one goal in his previous 14 games. Marleau pressured Korpikoski into a bad pass that Thornton picked off, igniting a 2-on-1 rush. Thornton headed toward the net then sent a pass to Marleau, who blasted the puck between Smith's pads and into the net.

The Sharks took a 2-1 lead at 17:28 when Burns scored his 11th goal of the season on a blast that deflected off the stick of Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and past Smith. Pavelski set Burns up on the play, hitting him with a slick cross-ice pass. Pavelski and Thornton earned assists on the goal.

Early in the third period, Phoenix defenseman Rostislav Klesa was accidentally kicked in the right eye by Marleau as he hit the ice after being checked by Klesa along the boards. Klesa wasn't cut, and he returned to action after a short break.

Coyotes winger Radim Vrbata, who's second on the team with 56 points, was scratched with a lower-body injury. Forward Alexandre Bolduc was in the lineup after being called up from Portland of the American Hockey League.

"With the short lineup tonight, we got out there and we competed hard and found a way to keep ourselves in the game," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Unfortunately we couldn't get the two points. But (we came) into a hard building, and with some injury situations like this, I thought our guys competed hard and we found a way to get a valuable point."
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