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Niemi makes 25 saves, Sharks beat Coyotes

Antti Niemi made 25 saves, and Logan Couture scored twice and added an assist in the San Jose Sharks' 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.

Niemi recorded his 31st victory of the season to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over the Coyotes for the top spot in the Pacific Division. Since Jan. 15, Niemi is 22-4-4.

Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe also scored for San Jose, 6-1-3 in its last 10 games.

Mikkel Boedker scored for the Coyotes. The loss was only Phoenix's second in its last 11 games.

As strong as the Coyotes' Ilya Bryzgalov has been recently in goal, he failed to handle several shots. Three of the four goals came off rebounds.

Couture later picked his up his second of the game and 30th of the season on a shot from the blue line that eluded Bryzgalov in the final period.

For the third game in a row, Phoenix started slowly, managing only two shots on Niemi in the first 13 minutes, and just five in the opening period.

The Coyotes paid for their slow start, and the sloppy play from Bryzgalov.

Early in the opening period, Bryzgalov failed to cover Clowe's shot in front and Couture converted the loose puck just over 5 minutes into the game.

The Coyotes quickly responded. Derek Morris' one-timer was deflected in front to Boedker, who slid the puck to the right of Niemi for his fourth of the season at 6:23 of the opening period.

The Sharks regained the lead on another rebound left by Bryzgalov.

Following a 2-on-1 with Joe Thornton and Pavelski, Bryzgalov couldn't handle Thornton's wrist shot and Pavelski backhanded in the rebound at 3:35 of the second period.

Then, Clowe drove in his 24th of the season from a rebound in front when Bryzgalov failed to handle Devin Setoguchi's drive with just over 5 minutes remaining in the middle period.

NOTES: The Coyotes scratched forwards Vernon Fiddler, Martin Hanzal and Lauri Korpikoski and recalled forward Ryan Hollweg from San Antonio. ... Morris' first-period assist was his 300th in the NHL.