SAN JOSE, Calif. – For one brief moment, after all the shouting faded, Jeremy Roenick sat on San Jose’s bench and nearly broke down.
Nineteen years after he scored his first NHL goal, Roenick scored number 500 in front of his first professional roommate, his former coach and his 10-year-old son Brett.
Roenick’s milestone was also the go-ahead goal in the Sharks’ 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
“I saw it go in and my heart dropped into my stomach,” Roenick said of his goal, which took a crazy bounce into the net midway through the second period. “This was a special moment and to do it in this building was important to me.”
Roenick took a few victory laps around the ice after the game, with Brett brandishing the historic stick riding on his shoulders. It was the second time the Roenicks have done that. The last time was in celebration of his 10th career hat trick – against the Sharks last December.
“It’s weird how things work out,” Roenick said. “I scored my 50th goal in my hometown at the Boston Gardens. I scored my 100th goal at home in Chicago Stadium, and this one comes against a team I’ve played for and in the city I live in. A lot of people threw me to the dogs after last year and this team gave me a chance.”
Specifically, Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson – Roenick’s first roommate in Chicago – signed him as a free agent. Roenick didn’t forget, giving Wilson the historic puck in appreciation.
“He taught me a lot about this game,” Roenick said. “It was a way to thank him for giving me this chance. This group and these fans have really accepted me.”
Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell and Sandis Ozolinsh also scored for the Sharks, who beat the Coyotes for the fifth consecutive time. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 22 of 23 shots.
Steven Reinprecht scored for the Coyotes, who saw their two-game winning streak and five-game road winning streak end.
Roenick took the spotlight with his unusual goal, achieving his milestone with 13:25 remaining in the second period against Coyotes goalie Alex Auld.
Roenick dumped a shot toward the net from just inside the blue-line. It appeared Auld had stopped the puck, but it dribbled free and slid across the line, giving the Sharks a 2-1 lead.
“I wish for his sake it could have been nicer,” Auld said. “I went over to play the dump, it hit the glass, and hit the net, bounced off me and I put it in. You never want to be the guy who gives it up, you’ll be on the highlights a lot.”
Roenick was immediately mobbed by his teammates.
“That’s the first 500th goal I’ve seen in my life,” Sharks’ centre Joe Thornton said. “It’s probably the biggest achievement I’ve seen. He’s a warrior and he’s playing great and scoring goals for us.”
The game was delayed a few minutes as Roenick skated in front of the Sharks’ bench with the puck raised above his head. He pointed into the stands as the crowd gave him an extended standing ovation. Even a few of the Coyotes joined in tapping their sticks.
“It’s a nice milestone. Anytime you do something in this game that’s such a nice record, its always a great accomplishment,” Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. “It was a nice night for J.R. It’s good for him and it’s good for his family. Crazy goals happen and that was a crazy goal.”
Roenick became the third American-born player to reach 500 goals. The nine-time All-Star ranks 40th in goals and 44th in points on the NHL career lists.
“It was an emotional moment,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “J.R. plays with a lot of passion. To see that joy is inspirational. Our team sees that it’s OK to be passionate in the way you play the game.”
Reinprecht gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead midway through the first period. Shane Doan picked off a bad pass and sent it to Peter Mueller, who skated down the ice before passing off to Reinprecht, who squeezed the puck just inside the post on Nabokov’s stick side.
Setoguchi scored the game-tying goal early in the second period, with an assist from Joe Pavelski.
Mitchell scored his second goal in as many days to up San Jose’s lead in the third period. Ozolinsh followed with his first goal as a Sharks player since October of 1995, when he was dealt away for Owen Nolan. He remains 20th on the Sharks’ all-time scoring list.
Notes: The Sharks failed to score in the first period for the first time in seven games. … Reinprecht’s 12th goal against the Sharks are his most against any team. … Sharks D Marc-Edouard Vlasic took a penalty nine seconds into the game. … The Coyotes won their first six games when scoring first. … Thornton has two goals and five assists in his last eight games.