Coyotes crash Sharks’ celebration with decisive win

SAN JOSE, California (AP) — Al Montoya and the Phoenix Coyotes
ruined what was supposed to be the biggest celebration in San
Jose hockey history.

Montoya made 40 saves in the rookie goalie’s third NHL victory,
and last-place Phoenix prevented the league-leading Sharks from
clinching the Presidents’ Trophy with an improbable 4-1 victory
Thursday night.

Scottie Upshall and Peter Mueller each had a goal and an assist
while coach Wayne Gretzky’s club thoroughly wrecked the Sharks’
regular-season home finale, sending San Jose to just its fifth
regulation defeat here all season despite the Sharks’ 41-17
shots advantage.

The Presidents’ Trophy was in the Tank, but it never was brought
out to greet the Sharks’ 40th sellout crowd at the close of a
wildly successful regular season.

Upshall, Ed Jovanovski and Zbynek Michalek scored in the first
24 minutes, and Mueller added a breakaway goal with 2:03 to

Evgeni Nabokov stopped 13 shots, and Travis Moen scored with
7:38 left to snap a string of more than 153 scoreless minutes at
home for the Sharks, who still clinched home-ice advantage in
the Western Conference playoffs when Detroit lost to Nashville
earlier in the night.

But the Boston Bruins stayed in the running for the NHL’s best
overall record by beating Montreal, 5-4, in overtime.

Boston has 114 points and a game in hand on the Sharks, who have
117. If San Jose loses its season finale at Los Angeles on
Saturday, the Bruins could claim home-ice advantage throughout
the playoffs with road victories over Buffalo and the New York
Islanders during the weekend.

Montoya, the former University of Michigan star finally getting
his first big-league shot, fell just shy of the second shutout
of his five-game NHL career, after blanking Colorado in his
debut on April 1. He made several quality saves against the
punchless Sharks, and he rallied back after losing his mask in a
collision with Marcel Goc with 12 minutes to play.

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San Jose got no boost from the return of captain Patrick Marleau
and high-scoring forward Ryane Clowe, who had both been out with
injuries. Although the Sharks are back near full-strength after
a spate of injuries, those returned players haven’t yet gelled
with their old linemates — and they’ve nearly run out of time
before the postseason.

Until Moen’s late goal in front of Montoya’s net, San Jose
hadn’t scored at home since early in the second period of last
Saturday’s loss to Anaheim. The Sharks played 65 scoreless
minutes against Colorado on Tuesday night, only to win a 1-0

The Sharks still are hoping to become the first true West Coast
team to capture the Presidents’ Trophy, which hasn’t been won by
any franchise west of Denver in two decades.

Detroit, which has won four of the past six regular-season
titles, fell out of the running with its shootout loss to the
Predators. The Sharks will finish with the top seed in the
Western Conference, avoiding any possible playoff meeting with
the tough defending champion Red Wings until the conference

Upshall scored his career-best 15th goal of the season midway
through the first period, flicking a loose puck quickly past two
Sharks and Nabokov right off a faceoff win by Matthew Lombardi.

Two San Jose penalties gave Phoenix a 5-on-3 advantage for the
final minutes of the period, and not even the NHL’s worst road
power play could blow it. Jovanovski scored from the slot with
18.7 seconds left.

Michalek — the brother of Sharks forward Milan Michalek —
scored four minutes into the second period.