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Not much to appreciate
No Presidents Trophy at regular season home finale
4/9/09 - By Mike Lee -

Given the opportunity to lock up home ice throughout the playoffs on Thursday night against arguably one of the weakest teams in the NHL, the Sharks laid an egg on home ice, losing big to the Phoenix Coyotes 4-1. With the Boston Bruins winning in overtime earlier in the day, the Sharks were forced to win in order to win their first President's Trophy for best record in the league. That didn't happen as rookie goaltender Al Montoya stopped 40 shots to deny San Jose on fan appreciation night.

Fans didn't seem too appreciative of the Sharks second consecutive sub-par performance on home ice, especially with the stakes at hand. With Detroit losing in a shootout an hour before the Sharks were scheduled to drop the puck, the Western Conference was secured, but home ice throughout the playoffs is what the Sharks covet.

Of course, if they play like they did on Thursday night, home ice advantage won't mean much come playoff time.

"In my opinion we didn't start playing until it was 3-0," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "At this time of the year there's no chance of winning if you make that decision before the game. To wait and see and put your toes in the water to see how cold it is and if you want to jump in or not, it's disappointing this time of the year. Will has to take precedent over skill… not sure that was the case today."

San Jose started the game flat, probing the Coyotes, rather than taking the game to their opponent. Phoenix would push the fight into the Sharks end of the ice and capitalize on a mediocre defensive effort by San Jose.

After winning a faceoff in their own zone, the Sharks failed to pursue the puck, allowing Scottie Upshall to jump on the puck near the bottom of the right circle and whip a shot past Evgeni Nabakov at 9:30 of the opening period. Joe Pavelski was caught flat footed as Upshall pursued the puck from the inside of the circle, and Rob Blake failed to get a stick or body in front of the shot.

The Sharks then shot themsleves in the foot. First Douglas Murray was assessed a double-minor for high sticking Shane Doan. Dan Boyle was then sent off for holding 1:16 into Murray's 4-minute penalty, giving the league's worst ranked power play a 2-man advantage for a full 2 minutes. The Sharks came with 32 seconds of killing off Boyle's minor, but Ed Jovanovski sent a shot from the blueline past a screened Nabokov with 18.7 seconds left in the period.

"That was a big goal for us - one-nothing," sad Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky. "A one-goal lead in this arena is not very good, and you get that second one and it gives you a little bit of a cushion."

The remainder of Murray's penalty carried over into the 2nd period, but the Sharks handled the one-man deficit with a bit more effectiveness. They would be guilty of playing chase the puck later in the period and it would cost them. Zbynek Michalek took a feed from Peter Mueller as he sliced through the slot and snapped home his 6th goal of the season to give the Coyotes the 3-0 lead.

The Sharks turned up the pressure and the hitting, which was accentuated by a Travis Moen check on Todd Fedoruk midway through the period in front of the Coyotes bench. Fedoruk took exception to the hit and immediately started throwing haymakers. With Moen and Fedoruk engaged, Jovanovski stuck his nose into the fracas, but was only assessed a roughing minor, rather than a third-man in penalty which would have resulted in his ejection from the game.

"It was a funny game because in the first five minute they had five shots, and halfway through the second period, shots were 11-10," added Gretzky. "So we really buckled down for 15-20 minutes there and played solid hockey. Then we got into some trouble: their team is so good they just kept coming at us."

Devin Setoguchi would go after Martin Hanzal 3 minutes later in a spirited scrap that favored the Sharks young winger. It was Setoguchi's first NHL fight.

San Jose would outshoot Phoenix 15-5 in the middle period, but nothing would challenge Montoya, who had clear lines of sight all night long. Phoenix did a fantastic job of clearing lanes and blocking shots all night long.

Moen would finally get the Sharks on the board with 7:38 to play, by jamming home a loose puck just in front of the left post. The Sharks would put even more rubber on net, and were finally able to capitalize after Montoya was surrounded by bodies and the Coyotes netminder failed to cover the puck in front of his own net.

San Jose had two power plays after Moen's goal, but their frantic handling of the puck seemed to do more damage than good. A Joakim Lidstrom delay of game penalty with just over 4 minutes to play ended any doubts of the outcome, when the Sharks failed to score, then gave up another goal right after the penalty expired.

Right after Lidstrom was freed from the box, the Coyote chipped the puck past Blake at the Phoenix blueline and Upshall streaked up the left side, carrying the puck into the Sharks zone. The Coyotes forward sent a pass to Mueller in the slot and the centerman flipped a shot past Nabokov to put the final stamp on the victory.

"We played them well, we matched up well against them today," said Gretzky. "Obviously they're a team that's going to be a little bit mentally stronger when they're up against the Detroit Redwings or Calgary Flames. We have a great deal of respect for them and we were ready to play against them."

When asked if his team was aware of the outcome of the Red Wings game, McLellan gave his input on how it affected his team.

"Yeah they knew. They watched the game and it was on TV, but I don't think that affected the outcome at all. I don't think we prepared or where we needed to be to play the first 25 minutes of the game. After that, when we did start to play with some authority on the ice, we had a lot of chances. They blocked a ton of shots, I think over 30 tonight, and that's a pretty committed team for group not in the playoffs."

Game Notes:

Sharks captain Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe returned to the Sharks lineup, striking two more players off the infirmary list. Jonathan Cheechoo, Claude Lemieux and Bad Lukowich were given the night off as the Sharks prepare for the start of the playoffs next week. Jeremy Roenick addressed the crowd after the game, thanking Sharks GM Doug Wilson for "restoring his dream" when he signed him before the 2007-08 season. Roenick shed a few tears while describing his appreciation at being given one more shot to play hockey.



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
PHO 2 1 1 4
SJ 0 0 1 1
1st period - 1, PHO, Upshall 15 (Lombardi), 9:30. 2, PHO, Jovanovski 9 (Doan, Lombardi), 19:41, (pp).
2nd period - 3, PHO, Michalek 6 (Mueller), 4:00.
3rd period - 4, SJ, Moen 7 (Grier, Goc), 12:22. 5, PHO, Mueller 13 (Upshall, Lindstrom), 17:57.
Penalties
1st period - Murray, SJ (high sticking - double minor), 16:57; Boyle, SJ (holding), 18:13.
2nd period - Doan, PHO (hooking), 4:38; Fedoruk, PHO (fighting major), 10:37; Jovanovski, PHO (roughing), 10:37; Moen, SJ (fighting major), 10:37; Hanzal, PHO (fighting major), 14:15; Setoguchi, SJ (fighting major), 14:15.
3rd period - Michalek, PHO (cross checking), 4:24; Michalek, PHO (roughing), 4:24; Murray, SJ (roughing), 4:24; Kalinin, PHO (tripping), 9:05; Sauer, PHO (high sticking), 13:23; Lindstrom, PHO (delay of game - puck over glass), 15:46.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
PHO - Montoya 41 40
SJ - Nabokov 17 13
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
PHO 6 5 6 17
SJ 6 15 20 41
Power Play Conversion
PHO 1 of 3
SJ 0 of 6
3 Stars of the Game
Al Montoya
Travis Moen
Matthew Lombardi
Attendence
17,496
Officials
Referees: Rooney, Kimmerly. Linesmen: Murray, Cvik.

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