SAN JOSE Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes had opening night fresh in their minds.
In their second visit to HP Pavilion of the season, Smith made 31 saves and the Coyotes shut out the Sharks on Saturday, 3-0. Phoenix used two goals in the first period and one in the third and then stymied the Sharks offense and power play in securing the victory.
On Oct. 8, Smith allowed six goals and the Sharks cruised to a 6-3 win that wasnt as close as the score indicates, in what was the first game for both clubs.
We remembered the first game of the season, said forward Radim Vrbata, who tallied his sixth goal in the first period. We definitely talked about it.
They did more than talk about it, as the Coyotes continually clogged up the neutral zone and employed a bend-but-not-break approach to their penalty kill after going ahead. The Sharks had the advantage in zone time for much of the second and third, but were unable to cut into the two-goal Phoenix advantage.
Were obviously asleep at the start, and bang-bang. The first period is over and were down 2-0 against a team that loves to play with the lead, said Ryane Clowe. It was uphill from there. It wasnt like the first game, was it?
San Jose had a number of opportunities to score, especially in the third period. On a power play, Joe Thornton had the puck alone in front of the net, but Smith dove to snuff out the shot at the point of contact with about 13:30 left.
Later, with about nine minutes remaining, Patrick Marleau chipped the puck ahead to a charging Joe Pavelski, who got behind the Coyotes defense. Pavelski lifted the puck high over the net.
Shortly after Pavelskis chance, Jamie McGinn took the puck strong to the blue paint and his shot from close range bounced off of Smiths pads high into the air. Torrey Mitchell had an opportunity to whack the puck into an open net, but swung and missed.
The Coyotes, who were getting outshot 12-2 in the third at that point, essentially put the game away with 7:05 left in regulation. On a complete defensive breakdown by San Jose, OSullivan and Kyle Chipchura were both in front of Thomas Greiss with no Sharks within 10 feet, and Chipchura fed OSullivan for an easy tap-in.
Todd McLellan assessed the performance, saying: I thought we were lethargic between the ears, to begin with. Some of the things that we talked about, even in the first five minutes of the game, we were in the wrong spots. That tells me that they werent there mentally, and when youre not there mentally, usually the physical part doesnt follow.
That was our game tonight. We played right into their hands.
The game was the first regulation shutout for the Coyotes in San Jose since Dec. 26, 1997, and ended their six-game losing streak at the Tank.
The Coyotes took the play to the Sharks in the first period, taking a 2-0 lead into the locker room after 20 minutes.
First, Ray Whitney gathered in a loose puck in the high slot and slid it towards the net. It went wide, but took a big bounce off of the back boards to the stick of Vrbata who beat Thomas Greiss at 14:21.
That increased that to 2-1 with less than a minute to go, when Lauri Korpikoski intercepted a Dan Boyle pass in the neutral zone. Korpikoski passed it to Raffi Torres, who found Boyd Gordon in the slot. Gordons soft shot trickled in off of Greiss right pad with just 32 seconds left in the period.
Boyle and Greiss were both eager to take the blame for that one.
Getting through the neutral zone was really bad on our part. The second goal I didnt execute my pass, said Boyle, who was on the ice for all three Coyotes goals. They come back the other way and score one of those goals that makes you scratch your head. Ill take responsibility for that one.
Greiss explained it, by saying: It hit my skate and I wasnt sure where it was. I tried to recover and just kicked it in the net. Its my fault. Its a bad goal.
Greiss made his first start since Oct. 29 in Long Island. He entered the game with an excellent 1.99 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, but took his third loss of the season by allowing three goals on 23 Coyotes shots.
He wasnt tested a lot, in fact, hardly any in the second half of the game, said McLellan. He could have had a shutout and we still would have only gotten a point.
Phoenix improved to 7-0-3 when scoring first, and a perfect 8-0-0 when leading after two periods.
They got their two goals, and they clogged up the neutral zone and their goalie played well after that, said McLellan.
The Sharks will have a complete day off on Sunday before resuming practice on Monday. The six-game homestand concludes with a game against Detroit on Thursday.
The Sharks lost for just the second time in regulation in the last 11 games (8-2-1).
We had a good run, but its done now. We have to start something new here, said Boyle.
Odds and ends: Joe Thornton had a nasty cut on his face, but when asked if it was a stick or a puck, replied he had no idea. The Sharks were 0-for-4 on the power play, and killed off all three Phoenix power plays. The Coyotes had a 33-25 advantage on faceoffs.