GLENDALE, Ariz. – San Jose’s biggest names finally are coming through, so perhaps the Sharks’ darkest days are behind them.
Patrick Marleau scored early in his 1,000th career NHL game and the Sharks beat Phoenix 4-2 Monday, snapping the Coyotes’ four-game winning streak.
Logan Couture and Dany Heatley each had a goal and an assist in San Jose’s second victory in a row after ending a six-game skid with a win Saturday night against St. Louis. Joe Thornton’s empty-net goal with 48 seconds left sealed the victory.
“Really,” Thornton said, “if your best players aren’t your best players, you probably don’t have a chance that night.”
Coyotes rookie Oliver Ekman-Larsson got his first NHL goal. Derek Morris also scored for Phoenix.
Couture’s team-high 20th goal came on a power play after Phoenix came up empty in a 10-shot barrage while Heatley was serving a four-minute double minor for high sticking.
“It wasn’t always the way we drew it up,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “The goaltender had to be very good but at the end of the night, it was the difference.”
Sharks goalie Antti Niemi repeatedly smothered Phoenix’s offensive threats, finishing with 34 saves. The Coyotes had at least two shots hit the post and several others were stopped from close range.
“He played excellent,” Thornton said, “and saved our bacon.”
The Coyotes’ sixth loss in a row to San Jose was played in front of an announced crowd of 9,672.
“We play them a few more times this year and we have to find ways to win those games,” Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. “Give them credit. They played well against us. Tonight Yans (Keith Yandle) hit a post late in the game. We had another couple chances where they blocked a couple of shots that had a chance to go in. That’s the way it goes.”
Marleau, 31, became the third-youngest player in NHL history to reach the 1,000-game mark and the youngest to do it with one team.
“It goes by quick,” he said. “But it happens and then you start thinking about all the people that have helped you along the way, all the support, all the players you’ve played with.”
The Sharks centre scored 3:45 into the game, a shot from a sharp angle from the bottom of the left circle that bounced off the skate of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and into the net.
Phoenix got an assist from the opposition on its first goal, too. With 7:51 left in the first period, Morris’ sharp shot from about halfway between the blue-line and top of the right circle bounced off the skate of San Jose’s Kent Huskins and into the net to make it 1-1.
After a Coyotes turnover in their zone, Couture passed the puck to Heatley on a breakaway. Heatley faked one way, then slipped the puck easily past Bryzgalov’s left, to make it 2-1 barely four minutes into the second period.
Couture’s goal came with 2:41 left in the second period and Phoenix’s Davis Schlemko in the penalty box for two minutes for crosschecking, a shove into the back of Scott Nichol. Heatley passed from behind the net to Dan Boyle, who sent a perfect pass to Couture in front of the net. The rookie redirected the puck past Bryzgalov to make it 3-1.
Ekman-Larsson’s goal cut the lead to 3-2 with eight minutes to play.
Notes: The Sharks, in an annual event, are taking the players’ fathers on the road trip. … If not for the loss of an entire season due to a labour dispute, Marleau almost certainly would have become the youngest to reach 1,000 games in NHL history. … The Coyotes were without D Ed Jovanovski with a lower body injury and D Vernon Fiddler with an upper-body injury. … Finalization of the sale of the Coyotes to Chicago investment executive Matthew Hulsizer is awaiting sale of US$100 million to $125 million in bonds by the city of Glendale. … The Sharks, 2-0 against Phoenix this season, played the first of 13 road games in their next 17.