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Sharks continue dominance of Coyotes
Couture and Niemi lead in the desert
3/26/11 - By Mike Lee -

Having already won three of three games against the Phoenix Coyotes this season, the Sharks put together one of their most complete team performances en route to a 4-1 win on Saturday night in Arizona. Logan Couture scored a pair of goals and Antti Niemi made 26 saves to help San Jose push their Pacific Division lead to four points. The victory also helps the Sharks keep pace with the Detroit Red Wings for 2nd place in the Western Conference.

Things went so well for the Sharks that the only black spot was the fact that their consecutive games with a power play goal streak was snapped at nine games. Putting four pucks past Bryzgalov on even-strength situations more than made up for things.

San Jose was only forced to kill two penalties throughout the night, but they did so by moving to the puck and making smart decisions with the puck. Preventing the opposition from scoring on the man advantage has been more than a problem area for the Sharks of late, so simple victories like that really set the tone for the game.

Moving to the puck was the theme of the night for San Jose and it served them well.

Logan Couture opened the game’s scoring with his 29th goal of the season 5:06 into the game. Ryane Clowe set things up by firing a shot from the right dot that Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov failed to control. Skating from the right corner, Couture out hustled everyone on the ice to the loose puck sitting at the top of the crease, then slid a shot around Bryzgalov for the 1-0 lead.

The Coyotes would tie thing up 1:17 later when a shot from the point deflected off defenseman Niclas Wallin’s skate right to Mikkel Boedker. The Phoenix forward was in perfect position to fire home the deflection for his 4th goal of the season.

San Jose dodged a bullet at 12:49 of the period when Andrew Ebbett found himself with the puck, a head of steam and no defenders between him and the Sharks net. Ebbett raced up ice, then put a breakaway chance shot wide of the net.

Phoenix got a break of their own with four minutes left in the period. Joe Thornton trapped a shot on net right on the doorstep. The big centerman pivoted to his right and send a shot toward a wide open net from three feet out. His shot rang off the left post and deflected out to keep the game tied at 1-1.

Couture just missed on a second goal in the period late in the period when a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot deflected out to the slot as Couture crashed in on the net. His return shot hit Bryzgalov in the pad and sat precariously in the crease until a Phoenix defender swept it to safety.

Bryzgalov did a nice job to turn aside a decent scoring chance by Torrey Mitchell two minutes into the 2nd period after the Sharks forward worked the puck to the spot between the circles and fired a shot on net.

Joe Pavelski put the Sharks back on top at 3:35 after jamming home a rebound from outside the right post. Thornton setup the scoring chance after putting another shot off the post. Pavelski had just sent a diagonal pass to the big centerman up the slot to setup Thornton’s shot.

Niemi made a big save with his blocker after Keith Yandle put a shot low to the stick side from 12 feet out.

Ryane Clowe pushed the Sharks lead to two-goals with 4:43 left in the period, pumping home a deflection from the high slot after Devin Setoguchi bounced a long shot off Bryzgalov. Thornton setup the chance by moving the puck into the Phoenix zone and dumping a pass to the Setoguchi along the left wing boards. Setoguchi’s shot hit Bryzgalov and kicked out to the front of the net where Couture whiffed on the put-back chance, but Clowe was trailing for the second chance.

San Jose kept the foot on the gas to start the 3rd period, keeping a steady stream of pressure on Bryzgalov. When the Coyotes finally did get a shot net, Niemi was solid.

Couture gave the Sharks plenty of breathing room by whipping a 50-foot shot past Bryzgalov with just under 8 minutes to play. The rookie took a feed from Clowe at center ice before racing across the blueline and putting a shot just inside the left post. The tally put Couture within one of Michael Grabner’s NHL lead for goals by a rookie.

Paul Bissonette felt the need to go after Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but Clowe decided to intervene, dropping the gloves with the Coyotes forward. The fight gave Clowe the Gordie Howe hat-trick and really put an exclamation point on the evening.

San Jose now gets four days off, which should provide more time for them to heal up and focus on the penalty killing. They will face off against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night, matching up for the first time since the Steve Ott circus twelve days ago.


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1 2 3 T
SJ 1 2 1 4
PHO 1 0 0 1
1st period - 1, SJ, Couture 29 (Clowe, Heatley), 5:06. 3, PHO, Boedker 4 (Morris, Turris), 6:23.
2nd period - 3, SJ, Pavelski 18 (Thornton, Mayers), 3:35. 4, SJ, Clowe 24 (Couture, Setoguchi), 15:17.
3rd period - 5, SJ, Couture 30 (Clowe, White), 12:13.
1st period - Whitney, PHO (hooking), 18:50.
2nd period - Mitchell, SJ (tripping), 10:58.
3rd period - Clowe, SJ (fighting major), 17:00; Bissonette, PHO (fighting major), 17:00; White, SJ (delay of game – puck over glass), 17:43.
Shots Saves
SJ - Niemi 27 26
PHO - Bryzgalov 32 28
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 9 11 12 32
PHO 5 11 11 27
Power Play Conversion
SJ 0 of 1
PHO 0 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Logan Couture
Ryane Clowe
Antti Niemi
Referees: Joannette, Kimmerly. Linesmen: Shewchyk, Lazarowich.
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