In an attempt to gain two points in the Western Conference playoff race, the San Jose Sharks played host to the Phoenix Coyotes in their second consecutive meeting Saturday night at HP Pavilion. An overtime goal by Steve Reinprecht spoiled a late Sharks comeback, giving the Coyotes a 4-3 victory.
Fresh off being named the Seagate Technology Sharks Player of the Month, Vesa Toskala returned to the net for the first time in three games. Opposing him at the other end of the ice was Curtis Joseph.
Three minutes into the game the Sharks earned their first power play of the night when Paul Mara was whistled for holding. But 42 seconds into the advantage, the game went to four-on-four after Nils Ekman was called for hooking. Both penalties expired, however, without a real scoring threat.
Jonathan Cheechoo got the crowd buzzing when he laid a bone-crushing hit on a Phoenix forward that kept the Sharks faithful buzzing for minutes.
Midway through the opening frame, Kyle McLaren was sent to the sin bin for interference, but the Coyotes couldn’t keep the puck in the zone and the penalty expired.
With five minutes left in the first, the Coyotes found the back of the net, ending the scoreless tie. A picture perfect deflection off the stick of Reinprecht left Toskala without a chance on the shot. Phoenix took the 1-0 lead.
The first period ended with the Coyotes hanging on to their one goal lead while out-shooting the Sharks 14-5.
The second period didn’t begin much better for Team Teal as four minutes in, Phoenix increased their lead to 2-0. Geoff Sanderson snuck in behind his defender and the pass from Bill Thomas put the sniper in alone on Toskala. Sanderson lifted his shot off Toskala’s right shoulder, doubling the deficit.
Seven minutes into the second, the Sharks put their best pressure thus far on Joseph. Joe Thornton’s line kept the play in the offensive zone for most of their shift and then Marleau’s line stepped up and provided Bernier a wide-open shot in the low slot. However, Joseph was continuing his mastery of the two-game series and stopped the shot.
San Jose did manage to kill of two straight penalties after that and resumed their offensive attack. It was almost as though the more pressure San Jose applied, the better Joseph got. While not for a goal, Sanderson was forced to take a penalty, giving San Jose a power play effort.
Early in the power play, Phoenix had two odd-man rushes, including a breakaway by Mike Johnson that Toskala made an unbelievable stop on. However, it was a second shorthanded breakaway that broke the camel’s back. This time Reinprecht roofed his shot to the left corner and the lead was 3-0.
San Jose seemed to control the game for much of the period, but they couldn’t put the necessary shots on Joseph to gain a goal and they concluded the period down three goals.
The Sharks came out playing desperate hockey to start the third and earned a power play when Jamie Rivers crosschecked Bernier in the crease to prevent him from banging in a rebound. This time the power play did its job. A Matt Carle point shot was redirected off Zbynek Michalek and the gap was closed to two. It marked Carle’s second goal in three games and his first at HP Pavilion.
Seven minutes into the third, San Jose had turned in nine shots, doubling their total for the first two periods. Then Fredrik Sjostrom was called for roughing in front while trying to keep San Jose from a loose puck and the Sharks were on their second advantage of the stanza.
San Jose would make it a five-on-three advantage when Johnson was forced to hook Cheechoo driving the net. San Jose used the opportunity to call a timeout and rest their power play unit for the huge 50 second advantage. For all but the initial faceoff, the Sharks kept the puck in the zone for 1:20, and only a quick whistle when the referee lost site of the puck allowed Phoenix to refresh their penalty killers and return to even strength.
Cheechoo soon pulled the Sharks within one. Scott Hannan smoothly delivered a neutral zone pass that found Cheechoo at the blueline. He skated in, slowly waited for reinforcements and then drove toward the net. Cheechoo lifted a backhander to the top corner, making the score 3-2.
As the Sharks attack continued – they were outshooting the Coyotes 15-3 15 minutes into the third –Ekman drew a holding penalty on Dennis Seidenberg and the Sharks looked for the tying tally with 5:39 left.
And that is exactly what they did. The play started with a long pass through the neutral zone to Bernier at the blueline. He couldn’t quite control the puck and was forced to battle Rivers for control. Bernier won the tussle and skated the puck behind the net. As he came out the other side, Hannan was dropping low and Bernier picked up the play. The soft pass was one-timed by Hannan past Joseph for the tally, completing the comeback.
Now the Sharks would have to focus on winning the contest.
The final minutes of the clock ticked off and the game headed to overtime.
Two minutes into the overtime frame, Carle was whistled for interference and the Sharks went down a man. After an excellent effort by McCauley to foil the majority of the two-minute advantage, Reinprecht notched his third goal of the contest with just six seconds remaining on the power play, giving the Coyotes the 4-3 overtime victory.
The Sharks will begin their three-game road trip on Monday when they travel to Dallas to take on the Pacific Division leading Stars. The game will air on FSN Bay Area at 5 p.m. and can also be heard on the Sharks Radio Network and sjsharks.com.