Sharks can't complete comeback, fall to Coyotes


Sharks can't complete comeback, fall to Coyotes

April 8, 2011


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.

Cubs' Epstein: 'History doesn't really weigh on this club'


Cubs' Epstein: 'History doesn't really weigh on this club'

The Cubs are going to the World Series.

Yes, you read that right.

The Cubs are going to the World Series.

The Curse of the Billy Goat is broken. 

The 71-year drought is over. 

The truly once-in-a-lifetime moment has finally come to Chicago.

Holy cow.

The Cubs punched their ticket to the promised land with a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Best Pitcher on the Planet in front of 42,386 fans in the most euphoric moment in Wrigley Field's history.

Theo Epstein's vision is one step closer to coming to fruition.

"History doesn't really weigh on this club," Epstein said before Saturday's Game 6. "Just trying to win tonight's game. 

"These guys - a lot of them are in their early 20s and they're not burdened by that stuff. The organization isn't. It's just about trying to win and keeping it simple."


Rewind: Sharks slow, sloppy and undisciplined in loss to Wings

Rewind: Sharks slow, sloppy and undisciplined in loss to Wings

DETROIT – The Sharks had just one scheduled practice on their 10-day road trip, set to take place on Friday in Detroit prior to the fifth and final game against the Red Wings. It was canceled, though, as the coaching staff opted for rest rather than work.

The result was a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings in which the Sharks were sloppy in their own zone, were smoked in the faceoff circle, surrendered a plethora of odd-man rushes, and took eight minor penalties. They just couldn’t keep pace with a Detroit team that was playing its second game in as many nights. 

San Jose looked like a club that has held just a single solitary practice since the season began on Oct. 12.

“Some breakdowns, guys not being above [the puck], some giveaways in our own end, we’re kind of leaving [the defensive zone] early,” Logan Couture said. “We just don’t seem like we’re dedicated to defense like we were at the end [of] last year.”

[KURZ: Instant Replay: Sharks blanked by Wings, end road trip with thud]

“It wasn’t very good tonight,” added Martin Jones, who lost his third in a row in goal. “Too many penalties, too many turnovers. Just wasn’t very good tonight.”

The start was actually a decent one, as the Sharks were attempting to put Thursday’s third period collapse in Pittsburgh behind them, but Detroit eventually took over. Gustav Nyquist broke the scoreless tie four minutes into the second period, and added to the Red Wings’ lead with a second marker about 11 minutes later.

On the first, Paul Martin was caught flat-footed in the offensive zone, leading to a two-on-one rush by Detroit. Nyquist abruptly stopped on the faceoff dot in front of Justin Braun, and rifled a shot though. On the second, Matt Nieto had control of the puck and was headed up the ice before he stumbled and turned it over to Ryan Sproul, who found Nyquist in the slot. 

A bad line change resulted in Andreas Athanasiou powering a slap shot to Jones’ far side six minutes into the third period, giving Detroit a commanding three-goal lead. 

“We were late everywhere tonight,” Pete DeBoer said. “When you’re a step behind a good team they expose you, and I think that was the story. We’ll have to go back and figure out why, and get our game back in a better place.”

“We played into their hands. They’re a transition team, a speed team, and if you’re going to play east-west and turn the puck over they’re going to make you pay for it. We talked about it, but we still fell into that trap. Obviously the penalties didn’t help, and we’re playing catch up all night.”

Among those penalties was a double minor to Joe Pavelski for spearing Steve Ott, just a few seconds after Athanasiou’s goal. The captain seemed agitated for much of the night.

Pavelski said he didn’t think he got a whole lot of Ott with his stick, but “it’s a play you don’t want to make.”

DeBoer didn’t take issue with the play which nullified what would have been a Sharks power play after a Drew Miller interference.

“Pav is a competitor. He was probably our best player tonight. He’s competing right until the final buzzer,” DeBoer said. “I don’t have a problem with that. It doesn’t bother me.”

The power play, though, is one area that the coach may need to focus on when the Sharks finally get a practice in on Monday at home. Despite being together for so many years, the top unit seems tentative with the puck and is misfiring on passes that are typically routine.

On one power play in the second period when the game was still scoreless, Pavelski was open in front of the net, but Patrick Marleau missed him on what would have been a tap-in goal. The Sharks finished 0-for-4 with a man advantage and have just one goal in a manned net this season during five-on-four play.

What has to change?

“Quite a few things,” Couture said. “We’re breaking in fine, [but] we’re too stationary, I think. I don’t know if we’re moving the puck well enough. Not attacking holes, not shooting the puck and getting it back.”

The Sharks will open up a three-game homestand on Tuesday with the Ducks. There is work to do before that.

“We’re 3-3. That’s the good news,” DeBoer said. “I think we’ve played some good hockey, but we have a lot of things we’ve got to clean up, too.”

Jones said: “Obviously it wasn’t the way we wanted to end the road trip. We’ll bounce back, and we’ve got a lot of games left.”