Yanic Perreault scored on a wraparound with 40.9 seconds to play, and the Coyotes recovered from blowing a two-goal lead to beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 Thursday night for just their fourth road win all season.
Coach Wayne Gretzky hasn’t been able to reach his last-place team for much of the season, particularly on matters of late-game execution. He can’t remember how many late leads his team has blown – but in a tough road arena against one of the NHL’s best teams, the Coyotes got the hard work and good fortune they needed.
“Against one of the best teams in the league, you need to do a lot of things right, and you need to be a little lucky,” Gretzky said. “Our guys played hard, our power play was excellent … and Curtis was outstanding.”
Joseph made 27 saves and kept Phoenix in the game with several stunners in the third period. Perreault then scored easily when Sharks goalie Vesa Toskala got entangled with defenceman Scott Hannan, leaving the net unguarded as Perreault came in from behind.
“We just kept working all night,” Perreault said. “I got a rebound, and I had a bit of time, so I went around the net. … It’s huge for us (to win late). Lately, it’s been the opposite for us. We’ve been losing in the last minute, or the last few seconds.”
Oleg Saprykin and captain Shane Doan scored early goals for the Coyotes in the first game of a home-and-home series between the division rivals.
Joe Thornton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored in the second period to tie it for the Sharks, who finished a disappointing six-game homestand with four losses, including three straight to Pacific Division foes. Toskala made 20 saves, but the Sharks lost consecutive games for just the third time all season.
“I have to give our team credit for competing, but we have a lot of passengers (who) don’t realize the bus has already left,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “They’re important people who aren’t competing very hard, and when you aren’t competing very hard, you’re setting a poor example for the rest of the team.”
San Jose’s outstanding season slipped during its first sustained home stretch. After beating NHL-leading Anaheim midway through the month, the Sharks have lost three of four to fall further behind the Ducks in the division standings.
The Coyotes still have scored more than three goals in just one game in December, but Joseph’s latest outstanding effort against the Sharks kept Phoenix in it. Joseph improved to 33-9-1 against San Jose in his career.
“For us to come into their building and get two points is a huge achievement,” Joseph said. “We’re starting to play well, especially considering how bad we were at the beginning of the year. We’re getting back to being a better team, one with a chance at the playoffs.”
Phoenix went ahead in the first period on Saprykin’s power-play goal, and Doan got the Shark Tank grumbling at another slow start when he scored just his second goal in 12 games, also with a man advantage.
San Jose finally scored midway through the second period when rookie Joe Pavelski missed an open net, but grabbed his own rebound and fed Thornton for the reigning MVP’s 10th goal.
“We’ve got to come out of the gate a lot stronger,” Thornton said. “It’s obviously nice to play at home, but we’ve got to win at home. We should have played better.”
Vlasic, the Sharks’ 19-year-old defenceman, tied it with 18 seconds left in the period on a power play, tapping home Mark Smith’s shot to snap a personal eight-game scoreless streak.
Phoenix agitator Mike Comrie got a bit rambunctious at the end of San Jose’s 4-0 win over the Coyotes two weeks ago, cheap-shotting defenceman Josh Gorges but refusing to fight Mark Bell. Comrie and Bell had a conversation at centre ice before this game, but nothing happened later.
Notes: Phoenix D Zbynek Michalek had two assists, but was penalized in the second period for high-sticking his brother, Sharks RW Milan Michalek. … San Jose D Kyle McLaren missed his third straight game with a bad case of the flu, while Phoenix D Ed Jovanovski missed a fourth straight game with a strained groin.