Team Teal returned to Phoenix in hopes of erasing the memory of the 8-0 loss they suffered there two weeks ago and they did just that with a strong all-around 4-1 victory. Ryane Clowe scored twice, including the game winner and Matt Carle and Jonathan Cheechoo also scored. Vesa Toskala earned the win by stopping 29 of 30 shots.
Carle had been recalled from Worcester prior to the contest and he stepped in for the injured Marc-Edouard Vlasic
who is out with a day-to-day upper body injury. Also, Toskala made a rare consecutive start as Ron Wilson noted Evgeni Nabokov has not had much time to skate since his last game, much in the same way Nabokov played two straight coming out of the Christmas break.
Action was slow early on, but a rare fight by Patrick Marleau
changed that. While the annual Lady Byng candidate traditionally stays away from the fisticuffs, he does know how to handle himself as Brent Ballard quickly found out. The Captain won the decision with a couple of big rights and took Ballard to the ice.
It seemed to spark the Sharks as they quickly found the scoreboard. Cheechoo initiated things by carrying the zone and feeding Joe Thornton
. As Thornton held the puck, Ryane Clowe
found himself open in the slot. Thornton quickly made the pass and Clowe ripped the one-timer before Curtis Joseph could react. The goal was Clowe’s 10th of the season and Thornton’s 400th career assist and 600th career point.
San Jose was playing strong defensively and kept Phoenix without a shot for the game’s first 14 minutes.
Then Sharks killed off the first half of a penalty kill prior to the period ending to preserve the 1-0 lead at the intermission. There were just four first period shots, but San Jose scored on one of their three.
Phoenix finally solved Vesa Toskala on a power play midway through the second. While up a man, Shane Doan parked his big body in the slot and easily tapped one past the Sharks netminder. Offensively, the Sharks were being held at arms length as the Sharks had only one power play chance through 35 minutes of play.
Then on their ninth shot of the game, San Jose made it 2-1 behind another tally from Clowe. On the play, Doug Murray’s pass went in the direction of Clowe and Marleau and the red-hot Clowe reached behind his defender and placed the puck top shelf before Joseph could notice.
Toskala was forced to make three big saves in response, including a breakaway by former Shark Owen Nolan, but the Finnish netminder sent San Jose to the second intermission up 2-1.
Less than a minute into the third, Carle showed why he was returned from Worcester. Reading a Clowe shot, Carle swooped down low and picked up the rebound almost even with the goal line. With Joseph reaching back, Carle put the puck across the line with almost no angle. Clowe picked up an assist on the goal for his third point of the night.
San Jose would make it 4-1 midway into the third. San Jose used a simple rule of the power play – putting the puck on net with traffic. Christian Ehrhoff launched one from the point and Cheechoo was out front to tip it in.
Phoenix had a late chance when with seven minutes remaining, Milan Michalek put a backhander on net, but Ed Jovanovski was on his knees and bent over, and the stick clipped him. The Phoenix blueliner was cut and the Coyotes have four minutes of power play time.
San Jose killed off all four minutes and easily finished of their second consecutive win and their fifth win in their last six contests.
Toskala finished the night making 29 of 30 save opportunities and has now won his last four starts.
The Sharks will return to HP Pavilion Monday night for their 7 p.m. start with Colorado. A limited number of tickets are available at the HP Pavilion Box Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be carried nationally on Versus, along with 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.