San Jose began their three-game road trip Saturday night in Phoenix against the Coyotes, but things did not go according to plans as the host routed the Sharks 6-2 before a full building in Glendale.
Evgeni Nabokov squared off with Curtis Joseph in the nets and Ron Wilson reunited Jonathan Cheechoo with Joe Thornton
and Nils Ekman for the game.
San Jose had an early scare when on his first shift, Scott Hannan went into the boards awkwardly and left the bench for a moment, but he did not miss any ice time.
When Nabokov was tested early, he came up huge on a point blank shot set up by former Sharks center Mike Ricci. On the other end, Joseph matched Niko Dimitrakos move for move and prevented an early Sharks tally.
A Mike Leclerc hooking penalty put San Jose on the game’s initial power play and, while San Jose controlled the zone, and had a Dimitrakos shot hit the post, they could not grab the first period lead.
San Jose had to fend off the high-end Phoenix power play late in the first, and Cheechoo and Joe Thornton
nearly connected, but the period would end just as it started, scoreless.
The scoreboard would not remain empty in the second, but it was the Coyotes who lit it up early. Just more than two minutes into the stanza, Mike Comrie got loose in the high slot and slid a backhander past Nabokov. Then 56 seconds later, Phoenix struck again. This time an Oleg Saprykin slapshot rebounded to the left of Nabokov and an unattended Fredrik Sjostrom knocked the puck in the open side of the net for a 2-0 lead. The goal prompted Wilson to make a switch to Vesa Toskala.
When a Boyd Devereaux penalty put the Sharks up a man, they set up shop in the Phoenix end. The puck left the zone just once and shot after shot went Joseph’s way. “Cujo” seemed to stop everything as he kept the shutout in tact.
As the game reached its midway point, Milan Michalek found himself behind the Coyotes defense and skating toward the net. He could not finish the breakaway due to a hook, but San Jose was on the advantage. However, it was the Coyotes who would score. Phoenix created a two-on-one with only Marleau back and they turned a give-and-go into a 3-0 lead when Mike Johnson beat Toskala who had no play on the shot.
Back-to-back calls against Joseph and Ricci gave Team Teal 1:38 of five-on-three time and a real opportunity to change the tide. Joseph was at his best during the shorthanded situation, robbing Cheechoo and Marleau during the possession and preserving his shutout to that point.
Phoenix led 3-0 after two periods, thanks largely to the dramatic play of Joseph.
The scoreboard remained quiet for the first half of the third until Phoenix added to their lead. A missed shot in San Jose’s offensive end turned into a three-on-one the other way. Ballard held the puck the entire way and rifled a shot past Toskala that rang off the post and went in.
San Jose did respond with eight minutes remaining when Ekman finally solved Joseph. Ekman grabbed a loose puck below the faceoff circle with no angle and fired it on net. Joseph appeared to have it, but it rolled behind him and San Jose was on the board.
The momentum was short-lived when Phoenix took to a power play immediately after and Ricci banged home an easy tally to make it 5-1. That onslaught continued as Comrie scored his second of the night on a breakaway to make it 6-1 late in the third.
Cheechoo would score late, but it was too late to change the major stat, a victory for the Phoenix Coyotes.
San Jose will travel next to Dallas on Monday where they will play the Stars at 5:30 p.m. on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.