SAN JOSE, Calif. – As bad as things looked for the San Jose Sharks when the week started, they are showing signs of turning it around just in the nick of time.
Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe scored in the shootout, and Antti Niemi stopped both Phoenix attempts to lead the Sharks to a crucial 4-3 victory over the Coyotes on Saturday night.
Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns and Daniel Winnik scored in regulation for the Sharks, who have won back-to-back games after two crushing losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles to open the week that put their playoff chances in peril.
“The last two games, I like how we’re going,” Clowe said. “When something happens we just forget about it. When we play with this sort of moxie we make it hard on other teams.”
The Sharks survived allowing goals in the final second of the first period and opening minute of the second to reach 86 points and move into a three-way tie for eighth place with Los Angeles and Colorado.
“We didn’t panic,” captain Joe Thornton said. “We felt like we deserved the two points. We played well. It was a tight checking game. … We have to play solid these last seven or eight games.”
The Sharks have the edge over the Avalanche, who have played two extra games. The Kings have the tiebreaker advantage over San Jose based on one more win in regulation and overtime.
Daymond Langkow, Derek Morris and Lauri Korpikoski scored in regulation for the Coyotes, who failed in their attempt to win consecutive games for the first time this month. Mike Smith made 29 saves.
By earning a point, the Coyotes moved into a tie with first-place Dallas with 87. But Phoenix has played one more game than the Sharks, Stars and Kings.
“We know our situation,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “We know where we are, we know where we want to get to.”
The Sharks nearly took the lead with under 7 minutes left after a scramble in front of the net, but Joe Pavelski couldn’t get his stick on a bouncing puck in the slot with Smith down and out of position.
They then got a power-play chance when Rostislav Klesla was called for high-sticking with 4:05 remaining but couldn’t convert on that either as Smith appeared to get just enough of a shot by Marty Havlat to preserve the tie.
Smith also made a strong stop in overtime on Thornton’s tip attempt off a perfect pass from Dan Boyle.
“They’re playing playoff hockey right now like we are,” Morris said. “It was a tight game. It could have gone either way. It was just a battle on every single shift.”
After tying the game with Morris’ goal with 0.5 seconds left in the first period when Marc-Edouard Vlasic did a poor job trying to run out the clock, the Coyotes took a 3-2 lead in the opening minute of the second. Former Shark Ray Whitney drove in on a rush and fed Korpikoski, who tapped it in for his 17th goal of the season 49 seconds into the period.
The Sharks managed to bounce back and tie it a few minutes later when Winnik beat Smith with a slap shot for his second goal in two games after 43 games without one. San Jose failed to convert on two power plays later in the period—generating no shots—and it was tied at 3 heading into the third.
The Sharks weathered an early goal by Langkow and seemed to take control. Marleau did a good job to force a turnover by Korpikoski to help set up his equalizer, just his second goal in 15 games.
Burns then gave San Jose the 2-1 lead with 2:32 left in the period when he beat Smith with a wrist shot from between the top of the circles. But Morris tied it in the final second, recording just his second goal of the season.
“We made a couple of little mental mistakes early,” Morris said. “Everybody does that and it happened. But the good thing is we’re mature enough to believe we can come back and stay in games and brush those little mistakes off and tighten up.”
Notes: Clowe missed much of the second period after being hit in the head by a slap shot from Burns. … Phoenix was without captain Shane Doan (suspension) and leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata, a late scratch with an undisclosed lower body injury. … Whitney has a seven-game point streak. … With his two first-period assists, Thornton tied Larry Robinson for 40th place on the NHL career assist list with 750.