GLENDALE, Ariz. - After going more than a month without a road win, the San Jose Sharks got one the hard way Friday night.
Following an early-morning flight to Phoenix following the three-day Christmas break, the Sharks overcame a slow first period, rallied twice and gave up a third-period lead. But shootout goals by Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau provided the difference in a 4-3 win against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Marleau's goal in the second round of the tiebreaker and goalie Antti Niemi's stop on Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the third gave the Sharks their first road win since beating the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 17. But a 13-1-3 record at home has allowed San Jose to stay with the lead pack in the Western Conference.
"It's a coin-flip when you get in the shootout but it helps when you have a goalie like Nemo and if you get one or two he's going to shut the door," Couture said. "We've been struggling on the road but we found a way to win. Today was a different schedule for us. We're hockey players and we're used to flying the night before. It took us a little while to get going."
Niemi made 34 saves in regulation and overtime and two more in the shootout, stopping Radim Vrbata and Ekman-Larsson after Mikkel Boedker opened the shootout with a goal. The Coyotes fell to 1-3-2 in the past six home games following a 9-0-2 start.
The game was played on the 10th birthday of Jobing.com Arena. The Coyotes lost 3-1 to the Nashville Predators on Dec. 27, 2003 and history repeated itself.
David Moss had two goals, his fourth and fifth of the season, and Vrbata added his 11th for Phoenix. The Coyotes were outshot 101-53 in two meetings against the Sharks in San Jose this season. They held a 37-31 edge in shots this time, but couldn't hold a pair of leads in regulation. Mike Smith made 28 saves for the Coyotes, who have gone past regulation in four straight games and lost three of them, including a 2-1 loss in Buffalo on Monday.
"It was a very competitive game. We played a much better game than our last one," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "It was a fast-paced, entertaining game that came down to one shot in a shootout."
"On the road, sometimes it's easy to have games get away from you. You have to have the will to keep fighting through it and I thought our guys did that," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said after his team improved to 6-5 in shootouts this season. "A month ago we were talking about how poor we were in the shootouts. It comes down to trends, luck and getting a bounce. The same guys who were missing then are now scoring.
"It's a team game we turn into a skills competition. For me the game is over when the overtime buzzer goes. It's nice to get the extra point but you can't ever hold your team accountable for that."
Phoenix had scored only one goal in four of its past five games and lost all of them (0-2-2). But the Coyotes got an offensive boost early against the Sharks.
Moss ran down and intercepted a week outlet pass from San Jose's Matt Nieto. He whirled and, in one motion, put a wrist shot over Niemi's glove at 7:43 of the opening period. San Jose outshot Phoenix 12-11 in the period, but the Coyotes had the better scoring chances and left with the lead.
The Sharks started the second period with a penalty kill and a great scoring chance. Smith got a lot of Justin Braun shot between the circles but the rebound fell off him and ticked off the near post. Marleau got a swat at the rebound and sent it along the goal line and off the far post, allowing the Coyotes to keep their lead.
But the Sharks kept up the pressure, and Pavelski got them even at 9:56.
Burns held in an Ekman-Larsson clearing attempt and teammate Joe Thornton set up Pavelski for a shot from the left circle that caught the far corner over Smith's glove. Pavelski has goals in three straight games and seven in the past eight to give him 16 for the season.
Moss put Phoenix ahead again at 11:04, deflecting a wobbly David Schlemko shot from the point and skipping it by Niemi. Moss had two goals in two periods after scoring three in the first 36 games of the season, but the lead didn't last long.
Derek Morris put Phoenix on the penalty kill four seconds after Moss' goal and the Shark capitalized. Tommy Wingels carried the puck into the Phoenix zone and found Marleau between two Coyotes in the slot. Marleau whipped the puck between Smith's pads with five seconds left in the power play at 13:13 for his team-best 17th goal to tie the game after two.
"We were up, we were down, we battled back and when you get to the shootout anything can happen," Moss said. "We're playing a lot of close games and you'd like to get the two points, but we're right around it."
The Sharks took their first lead at 10:10 of the third period when Pavelski grabbed a Phoenix turnover behind the net and threaded a pass to the slot. Burns put Phoenix's Antoine Vermette on his back and lifted the puck over Smith for his 11th goal to make it 3-2.
But with Wingels in the box for interference, the Coyotes got a power-play goal of their own. Ribeiro found Vrbata in the left circle and he picked the right corner over Niemi's glove with 6:25 remaining to tie the game for a third time.
"It was a tough penalty. We didn't agree with it, but we stuck with it and found a way to win," Couture said. "We didn't want to give them one point, but we got the two so we'll move on."
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