Forward John Scott was onto something when he said after Wednesday’s game that the Sharks could string together a couple of wins and “make things interesting.” That’s exactly what they seem to be doing.
The PA at the Tank appropriately blared Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer” as the happy home crowd exited the building following the Sharks’ 3-1 victory over the Coyotes Friday night. The win, the start of a home-and-home with Arizona, moves Team Teal up to 87 points in the standings, just three behind LA Kings for the second wild card spot, and just four points behind the red hot Calgary Flames.
“I want to say there’s no pressure,” Logan Couture admitted, “But there’s always pressure when you play in the NHL. Just go out and play our game.”
Except the Sharks’ game has definitely seen a boost since halfway through the long road trip. Following the loss to the Ottawa Senators about a week and a half ago, San Jose has pushed to win four of their last five. Are they finding a groove, or did the prospect of not snagging a playoff berth for the first time in over a decade finally light a fire under them?
“I don’t think we feel any more comfortable than we did a week ago, and we shouldn’t. We still need a lot of help,” Todd McLellan insisted. “We know what ahead of us. We know what the consequences are, and they just keep playing.”
“We put ourselves in this position. We have no one to blame but ourselves,” Couture said. “We can’t go back and win games that we lost. We can only win the games that are ahead of us, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Couture opened up the game by going top shelf, hitting the left corner of the net above goalie Louis Domingue’s glove to give the Sharks the early 1-0 lead. With pressure building in Arizona’s zone just as the Sharks first power play expired, Joe Pavelski’s slap shot found the same left corner to increase the lead 2-0.
“We’re getting some timely goals,” McLellan said of the early marker. “The start tonight with (Couture’s) right off the bat, they gave us a boost. And then Nieto’s goal later kind of gave us a cushion.”
Brent Burns was caught out of position and his stick redirected a shot by Mark Arcobello behind Antti Niemi’s back to make the score 2-1 in the second frame. The visitors nearly tied the game up with seconds left in the stanza when the puck bounced up toward the crossbar, but Niemi snatched it before it dropped into the net. Throughout bulk of the second period, the Sharks were not as dominant.
“We just got off our game,” Pavelski said. “Just a couple turnovers, out-numbered rushes … Take care of that, we got the performance we wanted.”
The Sharks took care of that about midway through the third frame after a tussle and word exchange between Brenden Dillon and ex-Shark Tye McGinn in front of San Jose’s net that sent both players to the box. The Sharks gained momentum as four-on-four play went down, and Matt Nieto backhanded a rebounder past Domingue before getting pushed over, increasing the lead to 3-1.
The Coyotes almost avenged the goal on the Sharks subsequent power play, but both Burns and Couture dove into the net to help Niemi and keep the puck from crossing the line. Arizona wouldn’t get another choice opportunity for the rest of the evening.
However, the Desert Dogs could get another opportunity or two tomorrow. Should San Jose’s win streak continue and keep things interesting, the Sharks could be entering their home finale on Monday night in an even better position standings-wise. McLellan was adamant about the team not getting too ahead of themselves.
“It’s one game at a time, we can’t play two games in one night. We know if we don’t get the game we’re looking at , the consequences aren’t very good.”
— The Sharks held Arizona to three shots in the first period.
— Logan Couture scored his 27th goal of the season and picked up his 39th assist (on Joe Pavelski’s goal.) It put him at 66 points on the season, a new career-high.
— Joe Pavelski scored his 37th goal of the season, which also counted as the game-winner. He now has 25 goals against the Coyotes, including five game-winners, the most versus any team. (Credit: Darin Stephens)
— Matt Nieto scored his ninth goal of the season. Five of his goals have come against Pacific Division opponents.