Sharks shut out in Phoenix, fall from 8th place

Sharks shut out in Phoenix, fall from 8th place
March 30, 2012, 4:37 am
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BOX SCORE

PHOENIX Radim Vrbata scored twice and the Phoenix Coyotes leapfrogged the Sharks into eighth place in the West with a 2-0 win over San Jose on Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena.The Sharks (39-29-10, 88 points) are now on the outside looking in to the playoffs due to their second consecutive regulation loss. Phoenix (38-27-13, 89 points) is one ahead of San Jose, and both have just four games remaining in the regular season.The Coyotes, last in the league in power play percentage, scored a rare goal with a man advantage in taking a 1-0 second period lead.A blast from Oliver Ekman-Larsson rattled around in front of the net before Vrbata slammed it home at 3:49. The goal came with Patrick Marleau in the box on a boarding call in what was the first penalty of the game.The Sharks had a chance to tie it on a power play of their own later in the period, but were generally ineffective and for the final 30 seconds of the advantage didnt have a single player standing near goaltender Mike Smith.San Jose nearly tied the game seven minutes into the third. Logan Couture had a chance in front of the net on a nice pass from Marty Havlat, but couldnt find the handle with Mikkel Boedker defending in front of the crease and tying up Coutures stick.That missed opportunity hurt even more when Joe Pavelskis shot from the high slot was blocked, leading to a two-on-one the other way. Ray Whitney fed Vrbata for an easy tap-in at 8:17, giving the Coyotes a two-goal cushion they would not relinquish.Smith recorded his third shutout against the Sharks this season, as Phoenix ended the season series with a 4-1-1 mark against San Jose. Smith surrendered six goals on opening night to the Sharks in a 6-3 loss at HP Pavilion, but just six goals total in the five subsequent matchups.For the second straight night, the Sharks had the better of the scoring chances in the first period but could not convert.Havlat missed from the side of the net on a nice pass from Ryane Clowe about seven minutes in. Later, Smith stopped a Torrey Mitchell one-timer as well as the rebound attempt by Dominic Moore with less than eight minutes to go in the frame.Smith stopped Pavelski, who was probably the Sharks most effective forward in their 3-1 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday night, on a three-on-one rush with 6:14 to go in the first on a wrist shot from the circle.Phoenixs best chance in the opening period came on a breakaway by Boedker with four and a half minutes left, but Antti Niemi poke-checked it away with the handle of his stick, keeping it scoreless.The Sharks fell to 1-6-2 in their last nine road games. In their last 21 away from home, theyve won just four (4-13-4), all against teams not currently in playoff position.Phoenix welcomed three key players back to its lineup for the game. Vrbata missed five of the last seven with an allergic reaction to penicillin; defenseman Adrian Aucoin was out for six in a row with a lower body injury, while captain Shane Doan missed the last three games due to suspension.The Sharks host Dallas on Saturday, visit the Stars on Tuesday, and end the season with a home-and-home against Los Angeles.