The newly assembled Joe Thornton
line, which included Jonathan Cheechoo and Nils Ekman, started off the game right. On their first shift, the hard working trio saw Ekman put a shot on the Phoenix net while open in the slot.
Their next shift would come on the power play and this time they would connect. After Cheechoo stripped former Shark Mike Ricci, Boucher came up with the loose puck. However, his clearing attempt went directly into Cheechoo’s chest, and he gathered the puck and went top shelf, giving San Jose the 1-0 lead.
Phoenix could not respond immediately with a goal as Nabokov came up with two big saves in tight, but the Coyotes response saw Dave Scatchard knock over Nabokov. Both Rob Davison and Kyle McLaren seemed to be checking to see if Scatchard had any interest in dealing with them, but Scatchard wanted no part of the either defenseman.
San Jose killed of the first Phoenix power play and maintained their 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the game.
Cheechoo nearly had a second tally with eight left in the period when Joe Thornton
set up shop behind the net and found Cheechoo in the slot. Boucher dropped once again, trying to cut down the angle and Cheechoo aimed top shelf again, but this time he got a little too much puck and his shot glanced off the cross bar and over the net. Joe Thornton
had a chance of his own when he skated in on a two-on-one and it looked for a moment like the puck might have snuck across the line as Boucher himself was looking for the puck, but it was stuck under his pad.
After San Jose easily killed off a second Phoenix advantage late in the first, Cheechoo had yet another opportunity to increase the lead. This time, he was alone to the side of the crease with Boucher down, but he fired the puck into the Phoenix netminder’s midsection.
As the period wound down to the final ten seconds, Shane Doan evened the count. Shooting to the stickside of Nabokov, he found a seam five-hole and the puck trickled across the line.
San Jose opened the second on a power play when Scatchard highsticked Cheechoo. San Jose controlled play in the Phoenix zone for almost the entire two minutes, but could not find the back of the net. Then, as the two minutes expired, Fredrick Sjostrom was sent to the box and this time San Jose would make the Coyotes pay.
Some nice work along the boards by Marcel Goc allowed him to maintain possession and find Milan Michalek in the slot. Michalek then found Hannan, whose shot rebounded Stevenson. The rookie forward was forced to pull the puck back and tuck it in behind Boucher for the nice tally.
When play returned to five-on-five, San Jose would continue the pressure. This time, instead of receiving a scoring chance, Cheechoo set one up, but Boucher again came up big, this time on Marleau.
Phoenix appeared to tie the game seven minutes into the period. A Sean O’Donnell point shot was stopped, but Doan kicked it with his skate. The puck then bounced off Nabokov’s pads and in, but the fact that it was kicked made it illegal.
As even strength play resumed after a Phoenix power play, the Coyotes gained control of the puck behind the Sharks net. The resulting pass into the slot found a waiting forward, but Nabokov somehow slid across the crease for the highlight-level save.
Doug Murray dished out his big hit for the game in the final few minutes of the second when he laid out Ladislav Nagy near the Sharks blue line. The period would end 2-1 in favor of the Sharks, but the guests would have 1:57 of power play time to start the third.
With more than a minute left in the penalty, Nabokov was called for playing the puck in the no-touch zone, giving Phoenix a five-on-three. To make matters worse, McLaren was whistled for board during the two-man advantage allowing Boucher to come off for the extra attacker.
The six-on-three was too much for Nabokov and the PK units as Phoenix tied the score. San Jose eliminated the following five-on-three, but with McLaren still in the box, Jamie Lundmark tipped a shot out front to quickly give the Coyotes their first lead of the game.
Moments later, Phoenix would make it a two-goal lead on an extremely unusual tally. Nabokov made the save on a Nagy shot, but it bounced to the back boards, back toward Nabokov, off his back leg and into the net.
Suddenly it would be 5-2. Taking a simple pass 10 feet away from the crease, Mike Johnson redirected the puck behind him and toward the open side of the net.
Ron Wilson pulled Nabokov in favor of Vesa Toskala with 14 minutes remaining in the third and it seemed to light a spark under the Sharks. Joe Thornton
set up a Cheechoo blast in the slot. Boucher made the stop, but the rebound was left near the side of the crease for the two Sharks forwards to fight over. Joe Thornton
gained possession and found Ekman on the other side and the smooth skating Swede put life back into the HP Pavilion crowd.
That spark turned into a fire as San Jose began buzzing around Boucher. With 9:24 left in the third, Michalek used a burst of speed to skate around Derek Morris on the rush. He then tucked the puck under Boucher to pull San Jose within one.
With 3:06 remaining, Boucher was called for playing the puck in the no-touch zone and San Jose would have two of the final three minutes on the power play.
As the final five minutes of the third began, Phoenix was doing everything they could just to hold on, and they were doing a fine job of it.
With 1:20 left on the clock, the Sharks pulled Toskala in favor of an extra attacker. They now had 25 seconds of six-on-four play. The remainder of the penalty was killed off and despite a solid last ditch effort, so was the rest of the clock, as the Coyotes skated off with the 5-4 win.
San Jose hosts the Colorado Avalanche Friday night at HP Pavilion and tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The game can be seen on FSN Bay Area and heard on 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.