SAN JOSE, Calif. – Joe Thornton just figured it was a matter of time before the San Jose Sharks’ power play would deliver on a night when the Phoenix Coyotes kept going to the penalty box.
Thornton and Dan Boyle scored power-play goals in the second period to help the Sharks win their season-high fourth straight game, 4-1 over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
After being held scoreless on their first four chances with the extra man, including more than two minutes of 5-on-3 time, the Sharks converted on three straight power plays to tie a season-high in man-advantage goals.
“Being a veteran team, you just don’t get discouraged,” Thornton said. “You know you’re going to get more chances as the game goes on and we did. We capitalized when it counted.”
Patrick Marleau added a pair of goals in the third period for last season’s Western Conference runner-ups, who are finally clicking after an up-and-down start to the campaign. It is San Jose’s longest winning streak since taking six in a row in the first two rounds of the playoffs last season against Colorado and Detroit.
“We’ve been playing really well. We’ve been playing really good hockey,” Thornton said. “We might not get teams in the first period, but I think we’re just grinding teams down with our size in the second and third period. We’re finding our stride.”
Antti Niemi made 24 saves for the win after watching Antero Niittymaki earn the first three victories during the streak. San Jose has moved up to fourth place in the conference with the four straight wins.
Ray Whitney, the only active player remaining from the Sharks’ original 1991-92 team, scored the lone goal for the Coyotes, 1-3-1 on their six-game trip. Jason LaBarbera made 35 saves.
“It hasn’t been fun, it’s been a tough trip but I think we have enough character and we’re a good enough team to kind of get out of this,” LaBarbera said. “Sometimes its good to go through stuff like this just to build a little bit of closeness and get us back to where we need to be because we kind of lost that the last couple of weeks.”
Despite four power plays, a pair of two-man advantages and a decided edge in shots, the Sharks found themselves trailing 1-0 midway through the second period after Whitney and Keith Yandle executed a perfect give-and-go to take the lead when Whitney got behind Niclas Wallin for the power-play goal.
The Phoenix lead barely lasted for a minute as the Sharks finally converted on a power play after Shane Doan was sent off for roughing. Boyle took a pass from Marleau at the top of the faceoff circle, turned and beat LaBarbera with a wrist shot to tie it.
Penalties finally began catching up to the Coyotes. With Lauri Korpikoski off for interference Dany Heatley threaded a cross-ice pass to Thornton, who knocked the puck into the open net to make it 2-1.
Marleau’s two goals in the third, including San Jose’s third on the power play, ended his 10-game drought without a goal and put the game away. Thornton assisted on both goals for a three-point night.
“They got rolling because they’re on the power play the whole time,” Doan said. “When you’re on the power play you’re playing in the other team’s offensive zone.”
The Coyotes committed three delay of game penalties in the first 21 minutes for shooting the puck over the glass, but the Sharks were unable to convert. The first came 12 seconds before Ed Jovanoski was called for interference. The Sharks peppered the net during the 1:48 of 5-on-3 time, but LaBarbera turned them all aside including two slap shots from Dan Heatley.
Jovanoski then got called for a delay at the end of the first period followed by another delay on Korpikoski early in the third but San Jose couldn’t take advantage with 17 seconds on the two-man advantage or the regular 5-on-4 time as the game remained scoreless despite San Jose holding a 23-8 shot advantage at one point midway through the second.
“We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be at that time,” coach Todd McLellan said. “I thought we got better as the night went on and we stuck with it. As a result, the power play got the three and earned the win.”
NOTES: Phoenix became the 10th team since the delay-of-game penalty was instituted to commit three infractions in one game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … The Coyotes had been 12-1-4 whenscoring the first goal before losing this one. … This is the first of six meetings this season between the teams. … Sharks D Douglas Murray returned after missing five games with a lower-body injury. He assisted on San Jose’s third goal.