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Bad habits mounting as playoffs approach
Sharks drop second straight stinker
4/8/11 - By Mike Lee -

After 20 years, you'd think the Sharks would understand that entering the playoffs with momentum improves your overall chances to surviving each 7 game series. Even armed with the knowledge, the Sharks laid their second consecutive egg and lost to the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 on the front end of their home-and-home series with the division rivals. By winning, the Coyotes also secured a playoff spot.

The game was headed downhill before the puck fell on the opening faceoff. Forward Devin Setoguchi injured himself in the pre-game warm-up and was scratched right before the start of the game.

San Jose had an opportunity to clinch the 2nd seed in the Western Conference by virtue of the fact that the Detroit Red Wings lost earlier in the day to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks will get one more shot at locking up home ice-through the first two rounds of the playoffs by beating Phoenix Saturday night in San Jose.

The Sharks got themselves into penalty trouble early in the game, putting the Coyotes on the power play twice in the first 4 minutes of the game. The much maligned penalty-killing unit held serve on both chances, thanks in part to better puck coverage down low.

Kyle Wellwood setup a pretty scoring chance after hauling up ice on a 2-on-1 break with Torrey Mithcell. Wellwood flipped a pass over defenseman Michael Rozsival's stick, but Mitchell's one-time chance hit Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalow in the crest.

Andrew Ebbett broke the deadlock with 4:02 left in the period by kicking the puck past Antti Niemi after Kyle Turris forced a turnover in the Sharks zone. Turris sent a 25-foot pass from the right wing boards to Ebbett on the off-post. Ebbett stuck his left skate out and redirected the puck into the Sharks net, but the goal was allowed even after a video review.

Joe Pavelski, Wellwood and Mitchell would turn up the heat in the final minute of the period, putting a series of shot on Bryzgalov, but the Coyotes netminder withstood the attack. Pavelski had an opening on the left side of the net, but his shot didn't get high enough to clear Bryzgalov's right pad.

San Jose tied the game on Ian White's 3rd goal of the season at 4:31 of the 2nd period. The defenseman drew the puck across the high slot, waiting for Pavelski to create some traffic in front of the net. He would whip a 60-foot wrist-shot that found twine to tie the game.

The Coyotes took advantage of the Sharks bad luck to reclaim the lead 4 minutes later, after Jamal Mayer bounced a shot off the post. Phoenix grabbed the puck, moved up ice and converted, when former Shark centerman Ray Whitney beat rookie defenseman Andrew Desjardins to the puck. Rather than moving to a centering pass from Shane Doa out of the right corner, Desjardins sat perched at the top of the Sharks crease. Whitney raced in from the slot, winning the race to the puck and depositing his 17th goal of the season.

Joe Thornton clanked another shot off the post less than three minutes later, and just like that, the Coyotes were racing up ice on a 3-on-1. That rush ended with Radim Vrbata scoring his 19th of the year to put the Coyotes up 3-1.

Douglas Murray was sent off for holding 8 minutes into the 3rd period, setting up the final stake in the Shark's coffin. Doan converted on the ensuing power play with a redirect from the slot that beat Niemi via the 5-hole.

Thornton would score his 21st goal of the season a minute later to give him 1000 career points. The centerman swatted a deflection out of the air, after Douglas Murray sent a shot in on net from the high slot. There was little celebration following Thornton's milestone, as the Sharks still found themselves trailing by a pair of goals.

A Keith Yandle interference penalty gave the Sharks an opportunity to cut into the Phoenix lead, but the league's 2nd ranked power play unit sputtered.

Off-setting minors to Mitchell and Martin Hanzel setup a 4-on-4 situation with 4:29 to play and the Sharks struck with the added space. Dany Heatley sent a Howitzer shot from the high slot after taking a pass from Patrick Marleau. The Sharks forward was facing away from the Coyotes net, so he was forced to pivot before winding p and blasting a shot that slipped inside the right post.

San Jose finally decided to try and kick things in gear with about three minutes remaining in regulation, but Bryzgalov survived to send the Sharks to their second straight regulation loss.



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
SJ 0 1 2 3
PHO 1 2 1 4
1st period - 1, PHO, Ebbett 2 (Turris), 15:58.
2nd period - 2, SJ, White 3 (Wallin, Mitchell), 4:31.3, PHO, Whitney 17 (Doan, Belanger), 8:57. 4, PHO, Vrbata 19 (Belanger), 11:31.
3rd period - 5, PHO, Doan 20 (Vrbata, Korpikoski), 8:22, (pp). 6, SJ, Thornton 21 (Murray, Boyle), 9:27. 7, SJ, Heatley 26 (Marleau, Demers), 16:21.
Penalties
1st period - Mitchell, SJ (holding), 0:42; Desjardins, SJ (high sticking), 3:41.
2nd period - Nichol, SJ (interference), 2:35; Turris, PHO (interference), 2:51; Courture, SJ (interference), 9:10; Korpikoski, PHO (holding), 15:12.
3rd period - Murray, SJ (holding), 8:02; Yandle, PHO (interference), 13:12; Mitchell, SJ (slashing), 15:31; Hanzel, PHO (cross checking), 15:31.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
SJ - Niemi 26 22
PHO - Bryzgalov 27 24
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 8 8 11 27
PHO 10 14 2 26
Power Play Conversion
SJ 0 of 3
PHO 1 of 5
3 Stars of the Game
Shane Doan
Radim Vrbata
Michal Rozsival
Attendence
17,125
Officials
Referees: O'Rourke, Morton. Linesmen: Nansen, Sharrers.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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