Niemi's scoreless streak ends as Sharks lose in Phoenix

Niemi's scoreless streak ends as Sharks lose in Phoenix
February 5, 2012, 3:27 am
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PHOENIX Lauri Korpikoski scored twice and Brent Burns' inadvertent deflection into his own net at the end of the second period helped the Phoenix Coyotes to a 5-3 win over the Sharks at Arena on Saturday night.Phoenix broke a 2-2 tie late in the second when Martin Hanzal got credit for his sixth goal of the year at 19:16 on a two-on-one rush with Ray Whitney. Whitney fed Hanzal to his left, and when Hanzal shot it, the puck deflected in off of Burns stick while the Sharks defenseman was diving back with an outstretched arm.It was a pretty lucky bounce, Burns said.

It wasnt the only break that the Coyotes got, either. They increased their lead to 4-2 at 8:03 of the third period, when Boyd Gordon threw the puck on net from the corner and it deflected in off of Korpikoskis left skate.It was an important goal, too, as Patrick Marleau cut the Phoenix lead to 4-3 with 32.3 seconds left, finishing off a pretty passing play that began with Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe, but it wasnt enough. Radim Vrbata sealed the Phoenix win on an empty-net goal with less than a second remaining.It would be easy to say that the Sharks were the victims of a few unlucky bounces, particularly regarding the Hanzal marker off of Burns. That goal, which gave Phoenix a lead it would not relinquish, probably could have been prevented even before the odd man rush developed.Thornton was involved in the play as the puck bounced around in the neutral zone, but decided to peel off and head to the bench while Burns hustled back in his attempt to break it up.Todd McLellan didnt like the first Coyotes goal, either, when the Sharks won a faceoff just outside of their defensive zone but allowed the Coyotes to gain possession in the zone before Raffi Torres fired in a shot from the slot at 4:16 of the second period, just 32 seconds after Logan Couture had given San Jose a 1-0 lead.When you look at the five goals they got, I didnt like the first one at all. It was a faceoff we won and we let people go, McLellan said. Then the line change, neutral zone fiasco that we had going for the third one was disappointing. Weve got to clean that up. We give up four, were not winning. Its as simple as that.The Sharks three-game winning streak was halted in the loss. Although they continue to lead the Pacific, their record fell to just 7-6-0 against teams in their division.Phoenix, which entered the game 12th in the Western Conference and in desperate need of points, has won two of three against San Jose after dropping a 6-3 decision on opening night.Every team judges us a measuring stick. Thats the reality of it. We know that and we expect everybodys A-game every night, Thornton said. Theyre excited to play us and theyre in the hunt to get in the postseason, so thats a big two points for them tonight.McLellan looks at it differently.When other teams play against each other and were not involved, they are intense games. So, Im not buying that theory a whole lot that teams get up for you.We better be prepared. We better not let our guard down. We better not assume that teams below us in the standings arent going to come out and go after us. I dont think its a good motivational tool. I think we have to be ready regardless of who and when, said the coach.After a scoreless first period, the teams combined for five goals in a back-and-forth second period.Couture got it started. He deposited his team-leading 22nd when he corralled a loose puck in front of the net and went backhand-to-forehand before sliding it through goaltender Mike Smith at 3:44.Phoenix responded just 32 seconds later when Torres lifted it past Niemi, ending an impressive run for the Sharks goaltender. Niemi entered with back-to-back shutouts against Calgary and Columbus after missing Thursdays 5-2 win against Dallas with a minor injury. Officially, the streak ended at 148:33, more than a period shy of Evgeni Nabokovs team record of 170:58 set in 2009.The Coyotes took their first lead on Korpikoskis first. A hard forechecking Boyd Gordon forced Colin White into a turnover behind the net, and Shane Doan found Korpikoski open in the slot for a one-timer at 9:29.San Joses power play remained hot, tying the game on Jamie McGinns redirection from the slot on a pass from Burns at 12:28 for his 11th of the season.Im just trying to find a soft area and Burnsie made a great kind of shot-pass and it worked out," McGinn said.The Sharks finished 1-for-2 with a man advantage, and are 6-for-15 in their last six games.Niemi was pulled for an extra attacker with 2:20 left in the third period, and Smith, who finished with 32 saves, nearly scored a goal himself. After a dump in on net from behind the red line by the Sharks, Smith shot the puck the length of the ice and missed the open net by about a foot.The Sharks return home to face Calgary on Wednesday, Feb. 8 and Chicago on Friday, Feb. 10. Following the Blackhawks game, the team embarks on a nine-game, 15-day road trip.Odds and ends: Ryane Clowe had three assists. ... Logan Couture increased his point-scoring streak to six games (4g, 5a), and had a game-high five shots. The Sharks and Coyotes next meet in Phoenix on March 10. San Jose lost 31 of 56 faceoffs. Each team had 14 blocks. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was a -2 for the second time in six games.