Coyotes jump Sharks with big win

Radim Vrbata scored both goals, Mike Smith got his sixth shutout of the season and the Phoenix Coyotes jumped to No. 7 in the Western Conference with a 2-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

Smith made 38 saves for his 17th career shutout and third this season against the Sharks.

Phoenix snapped a two-game losing streak and moved from ninth in the standings to seventh with 89 points -- one more than San Jose and idle Los Angeles.

The Coyotes and Sharks both have four games remaining, and the Kings five.

"I just knew the importance of the game and I think everyone did," said Smith. "It was huge, one of our biggest games, and we responded with a win."

Antti Niemi gave up both goals on 33 shots for the Sharks, who have lost two in a row on the heels of a three-game winning streak.

San Jose pulled Niemi with more than two minutes remaining, but still couldn't solve Smith, who had trouble explaining his success against the Sharks this season other that to credit the players in front of him.

The Phoenix goaltender had 15 saves in the first period, nine in the second and stopped 14 in the third.

Coyotes forward Ray Whitney had the primary assist on both of Vrbata's tallies to reach 999 career points, while Vrbata snapped a 12-game goalless streak.

Vrbata's first goal came on a power play 3:49 into the second period after a flurry in front of the net produced a rebound low on the left side, where he was able to whack it in.

Whitney's second assist was more hands-on.

It came at the end of a 2-on-1 in the third period when he flipped a pass over the stick of San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle and got Vrbata streaking down the right side for a one-timer at 8:17.

Game Notes

The Coyotes, behind Smith, went 4-1-1 against the Sharks this season. They are 1-1 on a four-game homestand that continues Saturday versus Anaheim...San Jose was coming off a 3-1 loss at Anaheim on Wednesday and opens a home-and-home in its own building Saturday against Dallas.