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Sharks clinch 2nd seed with 3-1 win
Playoff opponent still unknown
4/9/11 - By Mike Lee -

If you wanted a little clarity concerning the playoff picture, you're out of luck. Yes, the Sharks wrapped up the 2nd seed in the Western Conference on Saturday night by knocking off the Phoenix Coyotes 3-1 in their regular season finale, but their opponent is still unclear. San Jose did everything they needed to solidify their placement in the Stanley Cup playoff race, but must wait until the outcome of Sunday's schedule to find out who they will play.

The scenarios are a plenty, but all of that is out of the Sharks control now. They must wait and see. Saturday night's affair was in their control and they took more initiative in setting their place in the final regular season standings.

The Sharks received scoring from an unlikely source and pair of reliable forwards to the delight of a sellout crowd at HP Pavilion. The power play was the top of its game and San Jose's power play even got in on the act.

Who the Sharks play all comes down to what the Chicago Blackhawks do on Sunday. If the Blackhawks win in regulation or overtime, the Sharks will square off against the Coyotes. If Chicago wins in a shootout, they will play the Nashville Predators.

If Chicago loses in overtime or in a shootout, San Jose will face those same Blackhawks. If the Blackhawks lose in regulation, the Sharks will play the Los Angeles Kings. All of this has to have the video coordinator pulling his hair out, as the Sharks attempt to prepare for their first round opponent.

"Going into the playoffs were all excited about it," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "I think there is less talk, less hype about our team, which will help us. We like where we're at. It's up to us now to get ready and be prepared."

Should that opponent turn out to be Phoenix, San Jose can lean on many of the same habits that led to a 5-1-0 record against the Coyotes this season. One thing they'll be able to take to the bank is that coasting against the Coyotes isn't going to get the job done. After losing to Phoenix on Friday night, the Sharks returned to the bread and butter style of play that made them so dominant over the Coyotes this season.

San Jose turned in a much better opening 20 minutes than the period that opened their loss on Friday night. They took the initiative with the puck in order to set the tone, and only a pair of penalties would stall things on the offensive side of the puck.

The good news is that the penalty killing was perfect. It helped that they were matched up against the league's 23rd ranked power play, but San Jose will take any positive they can when it comes to killing penalties.

The Sharks took control of the game in the 2nd period, scoring a pair of goals, which took much of the pressure off the need to win.

Ian White scored his 4th goal of the season and second in as many nights at 7:11 of the period. The Sharks controlled the puck in the Phoenix zone for an eternity, courtesy of a strong forecheck. You could feel the pressure mounting on the Coyotes defense, and things would come to a head when White sent a shot from the blueline past Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

"We had the puck on the wall two or three times and we couldn't get it out," said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett. "Then the shot just gets thrown to the net. It has eyes and finds a way in through a maze of players. Those are wall battles that we have to win."

Martin Hanzal's roughing penalty at 17:59, put the Sharks in position to extend their lead late in the period. Joe Pavelski took a short feed from Joe Thornton just outside the right post and lifted a shot past Bryzgalov from 8 feet out. Thornton made the goal happen with some nifty puck handling behind the Coyotes net as defenseman Ed Jovanovski go turned around after losing his stick.

The goal would give Pavelski his 20th goal of the season, the third consecutive time he's hit the 20-goal plateau.

Lauri Korpikoski made things interesting 8:36 into the 3rd period when he blocked a Jason Demers shot in the Phoenix zone, then raced past the Sharks defenseman to score a breakaway goal. Korpikoski was home free after deflecting the puck past his own blueline. The Coyotes winger raced up the left side and roofed a shot over Antii Niemi's left shoulder to cut the Sharks lead to 2-1.

Jovanovski sealed the Coyotes fate when he took at tripping penalty with 3 minutes left in regulation. Logan Couture bagged his 32nd goal of the season on the ensuing power play. Dany Heatley sent a feed to the slot from behind the net, that Couture one timed on net. Bryzgalov made the initial save, but the rebound landed right between Keith Yandle's skates at the top of the crease. Yandle was too slow to get his stick on the puck, as Couture reached around the defenseman and wristed home the insurance the Sharks needed.

Bryzgalov threw his stick over his right shoulder at the end board glass in disgust.

"We felt like we were getting some chances and not getting anything off of it," added Tippett. "Then when you give up a couple like that you feel like you are treading uphill or treading upstream. We battled hard, we just couldn't find the puck around the net when we needed it."


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1 2 3 T
PHO 0 0 1 1
SJ 0 2 1 3
1st period - None.
2nd period - 1, SJ, White 4 (Mitchell, Wellwood), 7:11. 2, SJ, Pavelski 20 (Thornton, Marleau), 18:37, (pp).
3rd period - 3, PHO, Korpikoski 19 (unassisted), 8:36. 4, SJ, Couture 32 (Heatley, Wellwood), 18:29, (pp).
1st period - Mayers, SJ (high sticking), 2:31; Rozsival, PHO (boarding), 12:46; Thornton, SJ (cross checking), 14:12; Hanzal, PHO (unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00; Thornton, SJ (unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00.
2nd period - White, SJ (delay of game - puck over glass), 11:32; Hanzal, PHO (roughing), 17:59; Wallin, SJ (cross checking), 19:44.
3rd period - Turris, PHO (roughing), 15:56; Marleau, SJ (cross checking), 15:56; Jovanovski, PHO (tripping), 17:00.
Shots Saves
PHO - Bryzgalov 37 34
SJ - Niemi 36 35
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
PHO 9 14 13 36
SJ 12 13 12 37
Power Play Conversion
PHO 0 of 4
SJ 2 of 3
3 Stars of the Game
Antti Niemi
Ian White
Ilya Bryzgalov
Referees: O'Halloran, Peel. Linesmen: Lazarowich, Schachte.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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