Sharks clinch 2nd seed with 3-1 win over Coyotes
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Joe Pavelski scored his 20th goal of the season and Antti Niemi made 35 saves as the San Jose Sharks wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 3-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
Ian White and Logan Couture also scored for the Sharks, who snapped a two-game losing streak to head into the postseason on a winning note. By beating out Detroit for second place, San Jose is assured of home-ice advantage for at least the first two rounds. The Sharks will not know their first-round opponent until after Chicago's season finale against Detroit on Sunday.
The Coyotes missed out on a chance to finish fourth in the conference and having home ice for the first round. Depending on Sunday's results, Phoenix could meet the Sharks again in the first round, having lost nine of 10 games to their Pacific Division rivals.
The Coyotes got their lone goal when Lauri Korpikoski blocked Jason Demers' point shot and went in all alone on Niemi and beat him with a wrist shot for his 19th goal with 11:24 remaining.
But Couture put the game away when he scored his 32nd goal on the power play with just 1:31 to go, handing Phoenix its third loss in its final four games.
The Sharks broke up a scoreless game with two goals in the second. The first came after a relentless shift when they kept the puck in the offensive zone for more than a minute. Ilya Bryzgalov made tough saves on Dany Heatley and Kyle Wellwood, but the Coyotes were unable to clear the puck.
White then fired a shot from the point that beat Bryzgalov for his second goal in as many nights after failing to score in his first 21 games with San Jose.
San Jose added its second goal late in the period with Martin Hanzal was sent off for roughing. Pavelski got the puck in front of the net and beat Bryzgalov with a shot just before being flattened by Shane Doan to make it 2-0. The goal made the Sharks the only team in the league with seven 20-goal scorers.
Niemi made sure the game stayed that way heading into the third when he made a sharp stop on Radim Vrbata in the closing seconds of the period with Phoenix on the power play.
The Coyotes had the better of the play early in a scoreless first period, recording the first six shots of the game. But the Sharks had the best chance early when Bryzgalov stopped Scott Nichol from right in front of the net with a pad save.
Phoenix's best chance of the period was thwarted when Jason Demers made a diving breakup of a breakaway attempt by Doan in the closing minutes of the first.
Notes: Sharks coach Todd McLellan tied Mike Keenan with the most wins in his first three seasons with 152. ... Bryzgalov started 38 of the final 40 games of the season. ... F Devin Setoguchi played for San Jose a night after being a late scratch because of cramping in pregame warmups. ... The Sharks recalled F Benn Ferriero from Worcester (AHL) and sent Fs Andrew Desjardins and Brandon Mashinter back to the minors. ... Niemi was honored as Sharks player of the year, while Couture won the award for top rookie.