Sharks blanked by 'Yotes despite opportunities
Antti Niemi, who entered tied with six other goalies for the league lead in wins with six, finished with 21 saves. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN JOSE – The Sharks failed to score in regulation, and also in the shootout, in losing their fourth straight game to the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday afternoon at HP Pavilion, 1-0.
After a scoreless regulation and overtime, Mikkel Boedker and Radim Vrbata beat Antti Niemi, while Michal Handzus and James Sheppard failed in their attempts against Mike Smith.
The Sharks are 0-2-2 in their last four games, but moved a point ahead of Anaheim for the Pacific Division lead. San Jose has not won in regulation in its last six (2-2-2).
The Sharks dominated the third period, outshooting the Coyotes 15-3, thanks in part to three power plays. Boyd Gordon’s delay of game penalty at 3:01 gave San Jose its third man advantage of the night, but Smith stopped a backhander from Ryane Clowe from close range and a blast from Joe Pavelski from the high slot.
Justin Braun’s redirection on an odd-man rush with less than 14 minutes to go was also turned aside by Smith after the Sharks’ man advantage had expired. A Shane Doan delay of game penalty at 9:17 didn’t result in any superb chances for the Sharks struggling power play, and the scoreless deadlock proceeded into overtime.
The Sharks had the advantage in offensive zone time in overtime, but were forced to kill off a penalty for the final 20 seconds after a Brent Burns slashing minor.
Each team had its chances to break through in the first two periods. Niemi made a glove save on a slap shot by Raffi Torres six minutes into the game, while Smith stopped Handzus alone in front of the net after a nice pass from Tommy Wingels with 4:10 to go in the opening frame.
In the second, each goaltender continued to hold his ground. Niemi made a stop on Oliver Ekman-Larsson after the Coyotes defenseman stepped out of the box and raced into the offensive zone with 15:45 left. Clowe, still without a goal, had a number of good chances in front of the net but was unable to solve Smith.
Stuart helped deny a two-on-one rush by the Coyotes in the second, wrapping up Boedker and denying a pass through the slot.
Burns made his return to the Sharks lineup after missing the first 10 games with a lower body injury. Burns, who got a nice ovation from the sellout crowd upon stepping on the ice, was paired with Brad Stuart.
The Sharks were 0-for-4 on the power play, and are now just 1-for-25 in the last six games.
Phoenix finished 0-for-3, as San Jose’s penalty-kill streak reached 34 straight. The franchise record is 45 in a row, set in 2003, according to Elias.
The Sharks have not allowed a power play goal since the last time they faced the Coyotes in the home opener on Jan. 24.
Niemi, who entered tied with six other goalies for the league lead in wins with six, finished with 21 saves. Smith had 33.
Smith, who allowed six goals to Chicago in less than two periods in his last start on Thursday, was a thorn in the Sharks’ side last season posting a 4-1-1 record with a 1.98 goals-against average and .948 save percentage in six games. He shut out the Sharks three times.
To make room for Burns, the Sharks reassigned defenseman Matt Irwin to Worcester. Nick Petrecki was placed on waivers, and will be reassigned to Worcester if he is not claimed by Sunday.
Douglas Murray was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Andrew Desjardins, who missed Friday’s practice with the flu, also sat out, meaning TJ Galiardi made his return to the lineup after sitting the last two games.
The Sharks are set to fly to Columbus immediately following Saturday’s game, and will begin a six-game road stretch against the Blue Jackets on Monday. They will also play in Nashville, Chicago (twice), St. Louis and Dallas before their next home game on Feb. 26 vs. Colorado.
Clowe had a game high seven shots. … Four of the last six games have gone to a shootout. … Pavelski and Gordon collided in the Sharks’ zone in the third period, and it took several seconds for Pavelski to get to his feet.