SAN JOSE, Calif. – A gentle reminder of a bad start in the season opener was enough for Radim Vrbata to make sure a better effort would be there the second time around.
Mike Smith made 31 saves in his 12th NHL shutout, and the Phoenix Coyotes beat the San Jose Sharks 3-0 on Saturday night.
The Coyotes dropped their season opener in San Jose, 6-3, leaving a bunch of bad memories.
“We wanted to redeem ourselves from the first game of the season,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “We didn’t feel like we had a very good game, so we came out and had a very nice effort from the goalie on out. It’s typical of our team. We find a way to win, and that’s the way it was.”
Vrbata, Boyd Gordon and Patrick O’Sullivan all scored in support of Smith, who won for the sixth time in seven games and posted his first shutout since April 3, 2011.
Smith handled the Sharks constant pressure in the third period and made 15 saves.
“We’re a different team than we were from the first game of the season.” Smith said. “We expected a better game, and we came through with a great effort. Our D was fantastic. They let me see pucks, cleaned away the rebounds that were there, and dove in front of pucks. We deserved to win.”
Phoenix won in San Jose for the first time since April 9, 2009, a span of seven games. The Sharks fell to 8-2-1 in their last 11 games.
“We had a good run, but it’s done now and we have to start something new,” Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle said. “We had some pretty good looks, but they blocked a lot of shots. The whole night their neutral zone was really good.”
Vrbata put Phoenix ahead 1-0 with 5:39 left in the first period when he took Ray Whitney’s missed shot when it bounced off the end boards and sent the puck past goalie Thomas Greiss for his sixth goal of the season.
The Coyotes made it 2-0 with 42 seconds left in the first period when Gordon slipped a shot under Greiss’ right pad.
Since Phoenix hired Tippett as coach for the 2009-10 season, the Coyotes are 74-8-12 in games in which they score first.
“If you get a lead in this league it’s hard to come back,” Tippett said. “When we get the lead we can usually push through the game.”
O’Sullivan made it 3-0 when he stuffed in a shot from the low slot.
The Coyotes outshot the Sharks 11-7 early.
“It was a bad start,” San Jose forward Ryane Clowe said. “Bang, bang the first period is over and we’re down 2-0. It was uphill from there.”
Greiss made his first appearance since setting a modern NHL record for the longest relief win—going 62 minutes 52 seconds against Pittsburgh on Nov. 3.
NOTES: The teams are 49-49-7-6 against each other. … Clowe leads the Sharks with 53 shots. … Phoenix’s Shane Doan has the most goals (300) among active NHL players without a hat trick. He has 38 two-goal games. … San Jose F Joe Pavelski is tied with three other players for the most multipoint games in the NHL with eight. … The Sharks sent LW Frazer McLaren on a conditioning assignment to Worcester of the AHL. McLaren is recovering from hip surgery last May. … Phoenix leads the NHL in the fewest penalties per game, averaging 8.5 minutes.