Simply put, the Sharks lead in the Pacific Division could have been five, four, two or one point following their Monday battle with the second place Coyotes. The game could have gone either way the entire third period as both clubs knew what was at stake. Finally in the shootout, San Jose was able to win thanks to the goal of Joe Pavelski
and the goaltending of Evgeni Nabokov. As a result, they increased their lead to four points over surging Phoenix.
“I thought both teams played really hard,” said Nabokov. “It was like a playoff game.”
“I thought it was a heck of a game by both teams,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. “Bryzgalov and Nabokov both showed why they are Olympians.”
It’s not like the ice was tilted his way the entire contest like in Chicago, but Nabokov was tested several times, most notably on four-on-three shorthanded situation in overtime, and he was there as he has been all year.
“Nabby played good and we got the two points,” said Pavelski. “He made some big saves.”
Nabokov was just as impressed with the job done in front of him.
“I thought the boys did a hell of a job sacrificing the body,” said Nabokov. “It’s why we killed the penalty.”
In that tenuous overtime period, the Sharks simply allowed Nabokov to see the shots.
“If we can keep the lanes free, we’re confident he can make the save,” said Pavelski.
The Sharks know the Coyotes are not simply a hot team who will fade away, but rather a new rival for the division crown who they know will be in the hunt all year. Thus the tight game was not surprising to those on the ice, especially since the Sharks had not beaten Phoenix yet this year.
“We expected that,” said Pavelski. “We had an idea it would take three goals to get this win. They have not giving up much their last 15 games.”
“They are a really good team,” said Nabokov.
The penalty killers were great at keeping the puck out of the net, but then they provided the ultimate lift by scoring one themselves. Pavelski was the man on the spot for a goal that was necessary to force overtime.
“It just happened,” said Pavelski. “I was fresh and sometimes those plays happen. When you get the opportunity, it’s good to finish.”
The Sharks had a second breakaway on the same Phoenix power play, but Joe Thornton
was nagged from behind and his shot went just wide.
Phoenix had their own shorthanded two-on-one rush late in the second only to see Nabokov swallow up the opportunity.
Following a good start to the game, which included a shift where he led the forecheck with a smashing hit and then scored a goal, Setoguchi was moved up to the line with Pavelski and Ryane Clowe
“It’s the same as the last game,” said Pavelski. “He was finishing his checks and skating really hard. When he uses those things he is a top end player.”
“Simple. Get in on the forecheck,” said Setoguchi of his goal. “I got to the net and put it in. I am just trying to work hard and get in on the forecheck. That is when I’m effective. I’ve got to make sure I do that every night.”
The hard work was as much a reason for moving Setoguchi up as the goal.
“I thought Seto was sent a message by the coaching staff that he needed to pick up his play,” said McLellan. “He responded well against Anaheim and tonight he played well on a couple of early shifts. We need him to be a very good player.”
The Sharks has lost their last three shootouts to Dallas, St. Louis and Los Angeles, so it was time for them to win one.
Pavelski registered the only shootout attempt that found the back of the net.
With the clock ticking down in the third period, Jed Ortmeyer raced down the ice to avoid an icing call, which prevented a faceoff from happening in the Phoenix offensive zone in the waning moments. It was the type of play that could be the difference between a series win or loss in the postseason.
Midway through the first period Petr Prucha thought he could skate around Douglas Murray
in the attacking zone. What he found out was if Murray gets even a piece of an opponent, they will end up on the ice. Shane Doan found out the same fact later in the game.
The Sharks Foundation will be selling Mystery Pucks on Jan. 2 and 4.
COYOTES HEAD COACH DAVE TIPPETT
“It was a very competitive game right from the get-go. The building was energized early, the fans were in it early and it was a very good game. We made a couple of mistakes to get behind, but I like the way our guys played back into it.”
“There were some chances both ways to win it and the goaltending was good both ways and it was a hard fought point for us.”
“When you don’t get two (points) you always feel like you left one out there, that’s the reality of the business. In the 65 minutes that were played, we feel like we competed very hard and it was a hard fought battle. Unfortunately we didn’t get two, but we’ll take our one and get ready for tomorrow night.”
The Sharks will face the Washington Capitals on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.