Sharks can't complete comeback, fall to Coyotes

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Sharks can't complete comeback, fall to Coyotes

April 8, 2011

BOX SCORE SHARKS VIDEONHLPAGE NHLSCOREBOARD

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) A three-goal lead nearly blown against the team they never can seem to beat, the Phoenix Coyotes could have gotten that here-we-go-again feeling.Instead, the Coyotes dug in and dug out a confidence-boosting win, finally securing that playoff berth they had been chasing for what seemed like a month.Building a big lead and withstanding a furious late flurry, the Coyotes beat back the charging San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Friday night to secure a playoff spot in their final home game."At the start of the year, your goal is to win the division and get into the top eight to give yourself a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Sometimes, that happens earlier than others. This year, it didn't happen until the second-to-last game of the season, but we are still in there."Phoenix had lost eight straight to San Jose and limped toward the end of the season, putting its seemingly once-certain playoff chances in doubt. The Coyotes appeared ready to end both dilemmas in one swoop, building a 4-1 lead on Shane Doan's goal midway through the third period.Then they got complacent, which doesn't work against an opportunistic team like San Jose.Joe Thornton scored for his 1,000th career point, Danny Heatley knocked in his 26th goal with 3:39 and the Sharks smelled in the frozen water after that, racing into Phoenix's zone like they had 10 men on the ice.Sensing his team needed a break after an icing call kept the puck in the Coyotes' end, Tippett called a timeout to set up a crucial faceoff. He also had a simple message: "Let's get it done."The Coyotes did, getting several tough saves by Ilya Bryzgalov down the stretch, including three in the final minute, to reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1999-2000.To reach the playoffs after struggling to get that final point and to knock off the Sharks to boot was worthy of a big celebration, from cheers and high-fives on the bench to a little dancing in the locker room."I think the guys were a little more animated than usual," said Doan, who also had an assist on Ray Whitney's goal in the second period.Radim Vrbata scored in his 600th career game and Andrew Ebbett had his second goal of the season for Phoenix, which is tied with Nashville for fourth in the Western Conference with 99 points.The Sharks had already locked up the Pacific Division, but had a chance to secure the second spot in the West after Detroit lost to Chicago earlier Friday night. San Jose will have to wait for a rematch against Phoenix at home Saturday night to get it after falling into a big hole and coming up short on their fast-and-furious rally."We feel good about our club and we feel confident," Thornton said. "We've got three more periods before the big party starts so it's nice. We've got back-to-back games, go home and play these guys right back again."Phoenix seemed to be in prime position to lock up a playoff spot after a five-game winning streak in March. The Coyotes hadn't been able to finish it off, though, losing three of their previous four games, the last two in shootouts.That set up a make-or-break weekend, where the possibilities ranged from fourth in the Western Conference with a home-ice advantage to ninth and watching the postseason at home. Phoenix needed to either win one game or have Dallas lose just one, but the Stars weren't cooperating; they beat Colorado for the second time in two nights earlier Friday.Worse yet, the Coyotes were facing San Jose, which had outscored them 17-6 in four games this season.Intent on ending the losing streak and finally secure that playoff spot, Phoenix came out hard at the start, knocking the Sharks on their heels. It paid off late in the first period, when hard hit by Paul Bissonette set up Ebbett's goal on pass from Kyle Turris that bounced off his skate.Ian White tied it a couple minutes later with a shot that caromed off someone past Bryzgalov, but the Coyotes seemed to take control after that.Whitney put Phoenix back up with a one-timer from Doan, Vrbata followed with a 2-on-1 one-timer from Eric Belanger 2 12 minutes later and Doan became the Coyotes' first 20-goal scorer this season early in the third.The Sharks roared back in the final half of the period, though, getting goals from Thornton and Heatley and continuing to put pressure on the Coyotes. They just didn't have enough to finish it off, stopped by Bryzgalov, who passed Bob Essensa's team record with his 130th career win."I thought we had a number of players that had pretty good games, but a number of key people that we count on bobbled or fumbled the puck around a bit too much," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "The ice wasn't very good and we tried to get a little too cut at times and ended up being a little too risky."NOTES: San Jose C Scott Nichol returned after missing 19 games with an upper-body injury, but RW Devin Setoguchi didn't play after sustaining an undisclosed injury during warmups. ... Phoenix C Martin Hanzal returned after missing 14 games with a lower-body injury.

Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final

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USATSI

Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final

HOUSTON — For the second straight season, Stanford found itself depending on penalty kicks to advance to the College Cup final.

Like last season, the Cardinal came out on top. After each team converted its first nine attempts in the tiebreaker, Amir Bashti made it 10-for-10 for Stanford. Tar Heels defender Alex Comsia then sent his try over the crossbar to end it, giving Stanford a 10-9 win.

"They had just as many good chances as us, and it could have been a 1-0 game either way," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said.

Stanford (14-3-5) will face Wake Forest in the College Cup final on Sunday in search of its second straight national championship.

"It's not his fault. We could have done things in the game to have his back," North Carolina defender Colton Storm said of Comsia's miss. "It could have been any of us."

"It's the nature of the game," North Carolina coach Carlos Somoano said. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. Sometimes there's moments you seize the moments, and sometimes it runs away from you."

North Carolina (14-3-4) had the two best chances of the game. Late in the second half, forward Alan Winn was denied by goalkeeper Andrew Epstein, who made a nice save with his legs.

Later, Epstein made the best save of the match in the final seconds of the second overtime on a shot from forward Tucker Hume. After gaining possession in the right side of the 18-yard box, Hume unleashed a shot that Epstein deflected wide with his legs.

"He made the plays to keep the game at 0, and he deserves credit," Somoano said.

After a flurry of corner kicks and a free kick in an attacking area, Stanford had the best opportunity to score in the first overtime on a header from Drew Skundrich, but he put if over goalkeeper James Pyle, who had six saves. Foster Langsdorf, the Stanford goal leader who scored in the team's first three tournament games and has 15 on the season, had three shots and two on goal but was unable to break the deadlock before the game went to penalty kicks.

"Any result like that is going to be tough to swallow," Storm said. "Stanford's a really good team. We each had our chances. National semifinal, it's going to be tough to swallow no matter what."

While Epstein was unable to stop any of North Carolina's penalties in the shootout, his saves late in the game enabled Stanford to continue its quest for a repeat.

"Andy's never really attracted much attention, but when you're his coach you appreciate him," Gunn said. "You can depend on him."

Stanford has won 15 of its last 18 games after starting the season with three ties and a loss. The Cardinal have yet to concede a goal through four tournament games, while North Carolina's season ends after a third consecutive tournament shutout.

After winning the first national championship in program history last season, Gunn praised his team for continuing to push forward this season.

"It's incredible," Gunn said. "You've always got to be optimistic. There's no point in being anything else. We started the year so well in January. I thought, 'These players are so hungry.'"

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

ANAHEIM – Spotting a team the first two goals is a difficult recipe for winning hockey games. That’s even truer when you’re the Sharks, and you’re having tremendous difficulty scoring more than two goals on any given night in the first place.

While the Sharks hung with Anaheim in a closely contested game at Honda Center on Friday night, the Ducks got that extra necessary score. Brent Burns and Kevin Labanc answered first period goals by Rickard Rakell and Antoine Vermette, but Hampus Lindholm’s marker with 5:38 to go in the third period was the difference.

For the fifth time in their last six, and ninth in their last 12, San Jose's scuffling offense couldn’t eclipse the two-goal plateau in a 3-2 defeat.

Coach Pete DeBoer said giving up the first two scores, like they also did on Wednesday in a similar loss against Ottawa, “is not optimal, obviously. But we battled back, and I thought the game could have gone either way. 

“I give our guys credit for battling back. … We didn't hang our head, we battled, and we're just finding a way to lose right now instead of win, which, we've been winning games like that."

For the second straight game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski had numerous prime chances but couldn’t find a way to get one. An early third period opportunity stood out among the rest, though, when Pavelski was staring at a wide open net in a 2-2 game from close range.

Typically that’s an automatic score for Pavelski, who led the league in game-winners last season. But this time, it went five feet wide.

“Kind of rolls up, catches the blade, and it’s not even close,” Pavelski said. “Those are the moments you’ve got to cash in on. I haven’t done that.”

The Sharks’ best stretch came early in the second period, when they outskated the Ducks and peppered Jonathan Bernier while trailing, 2-1. The Ducks goalie turned them all away until Labanc squeezed one through at 8:40 after the rookie was nicely set up by linemate Logan Couture.

“He didn’t give me much room. You just want to get that off as quick as you can,” Labanc said. “Just took a quick shot, and it went in the net.”

In a game of momentum swings, though, the Ducks outplayed San Jose in the third. They took the lead when Joel Ward gave Lindholm a little too much room to pick his spot on a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

After looking like they were in good shape after two periods, Labanc thought the Sharks were “a little too confident” headed into the third.

“We stopped skating, stopped dumping the puck in, and working hard in the corners,” he said.

Pavelski bemoaned the fact that for the second straight game, a regulation loss in the final minutes, that the Sharks didn't even manage to get the point in the standings for forcing overtime despite fighting back.

"The last few games you have a chance to at least push it to the end," he said. "We're not giving up a whole lot."

The Sharks nearly did tie the game with Martin Jones pulled for an extra attacker, though. After Burns made a pair of remarkable shot blocks on Andrew Cogliano bidding for an empty netter, DeMelo and Ward each had whacks at the puck, but somehow it remained out. 
 
“A bunch of chaos, really,” is how DeMelo described it. “It was really tight. I think we were just inches away from getting the equalizer.”

Again, though, they just couldn’t find a way to get that third score.

“We were close,” DeBoer said, “but not close enough."