Looking to continue their winning ways, the Sharks took to the ice Monday night in their next to last road games of the season, when they faced off against the Phoenix Coyotes. In an attempt to avenge their 1-4-2 record against the Coyotes this season, the Sharks sent the NHL’s Defensive Player of the Week, Vesa Toskala, to the net to square off against rookie David LeNeveu.
Toskala did his part in the 3-2 victory, but Jonathan Cheechoo stole the show with his 50th & 51st goals of the season and San Jose moved into sixth place in the Western Conference standings.
The Sharks earned two full minutes of five-on-three time when Zbynek Michalek and Jamie Rivers were both called for hooking seven minutes into the contest. Both penalties expired without a tally, but just seconds after the game returned to five-a-side, Nils Ekman found the back of the net. Jonathan Cheechoo put a shot on goal that was turned away by LeNeveu, but the rebound headed straight to Matt Carle out front. Carle took the puck and backhanded a slick pass to Ekman, who had a wide open net to shoot at. The winger buried the chance and the Sharks were up 1-0.
Midway through the frame, Rivers was whistled yet again, this time for elbowing, sending the Sharks back on the power play. San Jose would only stay on the advantage 14 seconds before Kyle McLaren was sent to the box for holding Shane Doan as he headed down the ice on a breakaway. Both penalties expired, however, as the score remained 1-0 Team Teal.
McLaren was sent back to the box for holding again with five minutes left in the opening stanza, but Toskala made two huge saves to keep the Sharks lead intact as the penalty expired.
The Coyotes nearly tied the game in the closing seconds of the period when Keith Ballard fired a slapshot on goal, but Toskala smothered the shot and the Sharks headed to the locker room holding on to their 1-0 lead.
The first action of the second came just under five minutes in when an odd-man rush for Phoenix nearly resulted in a tie game. Instead, Marcel Goc was called for tripping, but no harm was done, as San Jose killed off the disadvantage.
Phoenix continued to control the puck in San Jose’s zone for the majority of the second. Ten minutes into the stanza, a Coyote defenseman fired a slapshot off the post, getting the Phoenix crowd buzzing. Just seconds after, Mike Comrie tied the game when he found a loose puck in front of the crease and wristed it past Toskala.
One minute after Comrie’s tally, the Sharks gained a man advantage after Rivers was penalized for hooking. 32 seconds into that penalty, Ballard was sent to the box for delay of game after shooting a puck over the glass. It took just 12 seconds for Cheechoo to notch his hisitoric 50th goal of the season when he took a rebounded puck after a Joe Thornton shot and fired it past LeNeveu. As the Sharks quickly gathered around Cheechoo on the ice, Thornton instead headed to the net to ensure Cheechoo's souvenier puck ended up in the right hands. The Sharks now had a 2-1 lead with eight to play in the second.
44 seconds later, Cheechoo struck again. The winger took a tricky shot from the side of the net that squeaked by LeNeveu and the Sharks had extended their lead to two, 3-1. When the second period ended, it saw the Sharks out-shooting the Yotes 20-18 and leading 3-1.
The Sharks came out of the dressing room ready to extend their lead, and they had their first chance of doing so 1:28 into the third when Joel Perrault was called for holding. San Jose couldn’t manage another tally in the two minute span and the game went back to five-a-side.
It was the Sharks penalty killers who came up huge to close out the game, including on what turned out to be a six-on-four Coyotes advantage when Gretzky pulled his netminder late. It could not stop the Sharks momentum as they finished off the 3-2 victory on the historic night for Cheechoo.
The Sharks will travel to Vancouver for their final road game of the season Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The game can be seen on FSN Bay Area and heard on the Sharks Radio Network and sjsharks.com.