SAN JOSE - Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith is making a habit of shutting out the San Jose Sharks.
After shutting out San Jose three times last season, Smith blanked them again Saturday afternoon at HP Pavilion, lifting the Coyotes to a 1-0 victory in a shootout and sending the Sharks to their fourth straight defeat.
Smith notched his 21st career shutout.
"He was excellent," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "He made some big saves at the right times, some tough saves on shots from the point that came through a lot of traffic. Obviously, when you don't give up any goals in a game with a shootout, your goalie gives you a chance to win, and that's what he did tonight."
Smith stopped both shots he faced in the shootout, rejecting Michal Handzus and James Sheppard.
Phoenix's Mikkel Boedker scored in the first round, beating Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi with a back-hand shot to his stick side. Then in the second round, Radim Vrbata beat Niemi with another back-hand shot to his stick side -- his 30th career shootout goal.
Smith made 33 saves. Niemi stopped 21 shots for his 20th career shutout.
Both teams were coming off of losses to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Coyotes fell behind 4-0 and fell 6-2 to Chicago on Thursday night at home. The Sharks blew a 2-0 lead and lost 5-3 to Chicago on Tuesday night, their third straight loss after starting the season with seven straight victories.
"It was huge," Smith said the Coyotes' first road win of the season. "After the shellacking we took last game, I think we were pretty embarrassed. It was a lot better response tonight and the way we're capable of playing."
The Sharks beat Phoenix 5-3 in their home opener last month, but they didn't have to face Smith, who missed the game with a lower-body injury. Smith posted a 1.98 goals-against average and .948 save percentage in six starts against San Jose last season.
"He likes to play deep in the net and he was catching everything," said Sharks forward Ryane Clowe, who had a team-high seven shots. "He was grabbing pucks out of the air. He played great."
The Sharks out-shot the Coyotes 30-19 in regulation and 15-3 in the third period, but couldn't get a puck past Smith. The Sharks fired three more shots to two for Phoenix in a scoreless overtime. Phoenix went on a power play for the final 20 seconds left in overtime, but didn't put a shot on net.
"We feel comfortable playing this type of game," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said of the defensive battle. "We felt we carried the game. Unfortunately we lost in a shootout, but there are things we can build on."
The Sharks nearly broke through for the game's first goal early in the third on the power play with Boyd Gordon in the box for delay of game. First Dan Boyle, then Joe Pavelski rifled shots from the slot, but Smith turned away both. The Sharks had four shots on that power play and another just seconds after it ended.
"He played great," Vrbata said of Smith. "I think we played well as a group. The last game, we were not too happy with our performance. We wanted to play our game, how we usually play, how we are successful, and I think it showed. He was great. Too bad we couldn't score one in regulation or overtime, but we'll take it."
San Jose’s offensive struggles continued Saturday. After scoring 23 goals in their first five games, the Sharks have scored only 11 goals over their past six. They went 0-for-4 on the power play and have just one goal in their last 25 power play chances.
Sharks fourth-line center Scott Gomez had a solid chance to score at 6:11 of the second period after taking a cross-ice pass from Patrick Marleau, but Smith gloved his blast. Midway through the period, Clowe got his stick on a pass just in front of the crease. Smith turned away that shot, too.
Boedker had a chance to break through after a Sharks’ turnover in their zone with around nine minutes left in the second. He ripped a shot from the slot, but Niemi snagged it.
"I thought it was a heck of a game," Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said. "Both teams played hard, both teams played very well defensively. There weren't many opportunities given up. I thought we generated enough to have a chance to win."
Unfortunately for the Sharks, Smith stopped every puck that came his way.
"I haven't played my best hockey as of this year so far," Smith said. "This was a great test for me, just to kind of not worry about anything else, just kind of come in this building and know they play well in here and they're a highly-skilled team. Seems like they just get better and better the longer the game goes on. I just prepared myself for that and tried to make saves at important times."
1. The Coyotes blocked 22 shots. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek led the way with eight and now leads the team with 36.
2. Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla returned to the lineup after missing the previous nine games because of a lower-body injury. Klesla played 18:56 and co-led the team with three shots on goal - all in the first period.
3. Coyotes center Martin Hanzal, who leads the team with five goals, suffered an undisclosed injury in the second period and played just 12:49. "He wasn't too bad," Tippett said of Hanzal. "He was injured and came back and tried it. We just told him to stay out. He didn't think he could be the player he needed to be so we muscled through without him."
4. The Coyotes, who entered the game leading the NHL with 309 hits, added 17 more.
5. Saturday’s game was Dave Tippett’s 750th as an NHL head coach. His record in his first 750 games is an impressive 411 (W), 239 (L), 28 (T), 72 (OL).
|Back to top ↑|