Scoreless Sharks stymied by Coyotes

HP PAVILION — Having played eight of nine games at the Tank, Team Teal will soon face their toughest challenge yet: The annual tennis road trip.

The Sharks will play six games in two weeks to accommodate the SAP Open.  The roadie takes them to Columbus, Nashville, Chicago twice, St. Louis and Dallas.

After scoring at least four goals in each of the first five games, the Sharks are now having trouble lighting the lamp. The Phoenix Coyotes, a team known for lulling opponents to sleep, accomplished their goal Saturday afternoon as they beat San Jose 1-0 in a shootout.

Both Antti Niemi and Coyotes netminder Mike Smith were outstanding. Smith emerged as the ultimate victor, stopping 33 shots for his second shutout of the season and 21st of his career:

Post-game audio: Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith

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“They’re a great hockey team so it was good for me tonight because I know they throw a lot of stuff at your feet from different angles and you’ve got to be sharp all over the ice so it was a good one for me to get under my belt knowing that they were going to come at us pretty hard and we’re fortunate to come out on top.”

Niemi, meanwhile, recorded his first goose egg of the season and 20th of his career.

The teams battled it out like a heavyweight fight without the punches. It was a skilled, evenly matched game. Actually, it was more like a staring contest. Whichever team blinked first would lose the game.

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns made his return to the ice after missing the first ten games. Burns had offseason sports hernia surgery and grew a beard that rivaled that of Giants closer Brian Wilson.  He shaved it to signify he was back on the roster:

Post-game audio: Sharks defenseman Brent Burns

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“I did what I could to stay in good shape off the ice and be prepared, but you can’t. You can be in good gym shape, in good skating shape, but as soon as you get into a couple of battles, everything changes.”

Justin Braun arguably had the best scoring chance for the Sharks midway through the second period on an odd man rush, firing a point-blank shot that was denied by Smith.

After sixty minutes of scoreless hockey, the game went to overtime. Following five minutes of 4-on-4 skating, the game would be decided in a shootout.

For San Jose, Michal Handzus has been the good luck charm. He shot first in the shootout, but Smith stopped the puck with his right pad on the kick save.

Then it was Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker who quickly skated in, switched to his backhand and flipped the puck top shelf into the net.

The Sharks had to score to extend the shootout, but James Sheppard’s shot was also saved by Smith.

Phoenix’s next goal would ensure the win as Radim Vrbata would also beat Niemi on the backhand.

Following the loss, much of the talk was about the Sharks inability to score despite an excellent penalty kill.  The Sharks have not allowed a power play in their opponents’ last 34 chances.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after the game that he is planning some changes to help overcome his team’s power outage on offense:

Post-game audio: Sharks head coach Todd McLellan

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“We’ll have to look at how aggressive we are in and around the blue plaint. Are we being a little too cute or too fancy? … We’ll have to look at the personnel and move some people around. Obviously it’s not working with the groups we have right now.”

Notes

The Sharks have killed 34 straight penalties dating back to the third period against the Phoenix Coyotes on Jan. 24. Phoenix was 0-for-3 with the man advantage. … The Sharks and Coyotes combined for zero goals during today’s game, the 10th time in franchise history this has occurred. The last time the Sharks and their opponent combined for zero goals also occurred against Phoenix, when the Sharks lost 1-0 in a shootout at HP Pavilion on October 12, 2009. … Smith was named number one star of the game and Niemi was the number two star. … The Sharks next home game isn’t until February 26 vs. Colorado.

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