Instant Replay: Pavelski scores twice, Sharks win finale

Instant Replay: Pavelski scores twice, Sharks win finale
April 12, 2014, 7:45 pm
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Sharks' Joe Pavelski (8) celebrates his second goal in the first period with Justin Braun (61) and Matt Irwin (52). (AP)

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX – For the first time in his career, Joe Pavelski is a 40-goal scorer. Or, to be precise, a 41-goal scorer.

Named as the Sharks’ team MVP and fan favorite on Friday before the Sharks’ final home game, Pavelski scored twice in the first period to help guide the Sharks to a 3-2 win in Phoenix in their final game of the regular season.

The game was meaningless in terms of first round playoff placement, as the Sharks have been locked in to the second seed in the Pacific Division since Wednesday. Phoenix was eliminated on Friday night when Dallas beat St. Louis, securing the final spot.

Still, the game had some significance for Pavelski, who said earlier in the week that reaching the 40-goal plateau would be meaningful. His 41 goals place him alone in third in the NHL in that category.

It took Pavelski less than four minutes into the game to score his first, giving the Sharks a 1-0 lead. On the power play, his wrist shot beat rookie goaltender Mark Visentin at 3:43.

He added goal his second goal of the night at 9:56, rocketing a one-timer from Matt Irwin to the top corner. Pavelski finished with seven goals and five assists for 12 points in his final nine games.

In the third period, Pavelski was taken off of the Joe Thornton line and skated as a center between Tommy Wingels and Marty Havlat at one point, while rookie Tomas Hertl returned to the Thornton-Brent Burns line, where he was slotted before he got hurt.

Antti Niemi was in the spotlight, after getting pulled from his last outing in Anaheim after allowing three questionable goals in the key loss to the Ducks. Furthermore, Alex Stalock was outstanding in the Sharks’ win against Colorado on Friday night, and has been the more consistent goaltender in the second half of the season.

Niemi wasn’t challenged in the first period, but his workload picked up in the middle frame, as the Coyotes notched 16 shots on goal. The 30-year-old netminder stopped Keith Yandle from the slot early in the frame, pushed away Mike Ribeiro’s attempt on the doorstep, and kicked aside a Shane Doan one-timer with 13 minutes to go.

There wasn’t much he could do on Phoenix’s first goal, when Radim Vrbata’s pass through the slot past Irwin found Ribeiro’s tape, and the forward lifted the puck over Niemi’s outstretched glove hand midway through regulation. He had a much better chance to stop Doan’s short side shot from the circle at the 44-second mark of the third, which came after Logan Couture had given the Sharks a 3-1 lead just 13 seconds into the final frame when he tipped in a Boyle floater.

Niemi’s biggest save came with 3:50 to go in regulation, when he held the line on Doan who tried to go five-hole on a breakaway. He finished with 30 saves.

The Sharks, who finished 3-0-1 against the Coyotes, ended the 2013-14 campaign with a 51-22-9 record for 111 points.

Special teams
Pavelski’s first period goal snapped an 0-for-9 streak on the power play in the last three games. The Sharks finished 1-for-2, with both power plays coming on minor penalties to Paul Bissonnette.

San Jose had to kill off just one penalty, an interference minor to Brad Stuart in the first period. The Sharks have been shorthanded a league-low 219 times, and have killed off all 12 power play chances against in the last five games.

The Coyotes entered with the best power play at home among Western Conference teams.

In goal
Niemi started for the fifth time in the last six games, and although no announcement has formally been made, he’s probably the better bet to start Game 1 of the postseason when the Sharks open against Los Angeles.

Visentin, 21, made his first career NHL start and allowed three goals on 31 shots. Mike Smith remains out with a lower body injury, and former Shark Thomas Greiss had the night off after starting the previous eight games.

Lineup
Scott Hannan did not make the trip after suffering an upper body injury on Friday against Colorado.

Bracken Kearns did not play in the third period for unspecified reasons.

Up next
Dates and times for San Jose’s first round matchup against the Kings are likely to be announced on Sunday night.