SAN JOSE – The Coyotes didn’t crash the party at HP Pavilion on Thursday night, they flat out cancelled it.
The San Jose Sharks were planning to take ownership of the Presidents’ Trophy with a victory over Phoenix, but thanks to rookie goalie Al Montoya and his teammates, the award for most points earned this season is still without an owner.
Montoya, in just his fourth NHL start, made 40 saves to lead the Coyotes to a 4-1 triumph.
“It feels good (to win) coming into a building like this, in a playoff-hockey environment,” Montoya said. “…I just wanted to go out there and prove myself. The team really helped me out. I feel like I made the saves and they took care of the rest.”
Scottie Upshall and Peter Mueller each notched a goal and an assist, and Matthew Lombardi chipped in two assists for the Coyotes, who split the six-game season series with the Sharks. No other team has beaten San Jose three times in regulation this season.
The Sharks, looking to please a sellout crowd, came at the Coyotes hard early in the game, firing numerous shots on Montoya within the first five minutes. The 24-year-old netminder stopped them all.
“You knew they were going to come out flying (because) this was their biggest night (what) with fan appreciation night and at the same time it's the last game at home for them,” Montoya said. “So I knew if we weathered the storm right away and just stayed with them in the first that we’d have a game ahead of us.”
I just wanted to go out there and prove myself. The team really helped me out. I feel like I made the saves and they took care of the rest.”- Al Montoya
Upshall gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead by scoring his eighth goal with Phoenix in 18 games at 9:30 of the first period. It was a wrist shot fired seconds after Lombardi won a faceoff in San Jose’s zone.
With two Sharks in the penalty box, defenseman Ed Jovanovski made the score 2-0 with 19 seconds left in the first period when he fired a one-timer from the top of the slot past Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. The goal was Phoenix’s first with a five-on-three advantage this season.
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek gave Phoenix a 3-0 lead four minutes into the second period when he wristed a shot from the high slot over Nabokov’s glove and under the crossbar.
“It feels good to play the spoiler kind of role,” Michalek said. “Any time you beat a team that's playing for something, it's nice. Obviously, our playoff hopes are gone. We just want to finish the season strong going into next year and the summer. so, it was a big two points for us.”
The Sharks outshot the Coyotes 35-11 over the last two periods, but Montoya played like a poised veteran despite being briefly shaken up after being knocked backward and to the ice by Sharks forward Marcel Goc.
Relentess penalty killing in the second and third periods were key for Phoenix; the Sharks had six power plays but did not score.
“We really did a solid team effort as far as killing penalites,” Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky said. “…When that did sort of break down a little bit Montoya made a big key save... It was a pretty gritty effort by our goaltender, first and foremost, but I thought just as important, we scored key goals at times.“
Sharks forward Travis Moen crammed the puck past Montoya from in close with 7:38 left in the third period to spoil the rookie’s bid for his second NHL shutout, but Mueller ended San Jose’s hopes for a miraculous comeback when he scored a breakaway goal with 2:03 left. It was Mueller’s first goal since Jan. 18.
"We still want to get better, and it's very disappointing to have this result in our last regular-season (home) game," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle told reporters. "The energy was there, just obviously the execution was way off. We missed a lot of chances. Just poor finish on our part."
• The Coyotes blocked 31 shots. Michalek, who leads the league in that category, blocked a game-high six shots. Defensemen Kurt Sauer and Ken Klee each blocked four shots.
• Gretzky was non-commital when asked if Montoya had earned a start in the season finale on Saturday vs. Anaheim.
• Upshall now has 15 goals this season – a career-high.
• Lombardi won 18 of 28 faceoffs.
• Sharks captain Patrick Marleau returned to action after missing five games because of a lower-body injury. He had three shots on goal in 19:14.
• The Coyotes scratched forwards Mikkel Boedker, Kyle Turris, Nigel Dawes, Daniel Winnik and defenseman David Hale. San Jose scratched forwards Jonathan Cheechoo and Claude Lemieux, and defnseman Brad Lukowich.
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