Smith, Vermette sink Sharks as Coyotes win in shootout

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Antoine Vermette got the chance to be the hero in the shootout thanks to Mike Smith’s play in goal.

Vermette scored in the opening minute and then got the game-winner in the shootout to give the Phoenix Coyotes a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

“I just tried to change the angle, slow down and make him move a little bit,” Vermette said of his shootout winner, a backhander he slipped between Antti Niemi’s pads. “I just made a move and got it between his legs.”

Mikkel Boedker also scored for the Coyotes (10-3-2), who have points in 11 of their last 12 games. Smith had 48 saves in regulation and overtime, then stopped four of the five shots in the shootout.

“He was big, especially in the power play,” Vermette said. “He made some key saves and was an important part of our win tonight.”

Added Coyotes coach Dave Tippett: “”Mike Smith was huge in this game. He
made save after save, and we managed to get points in the shootout.”

Radim Vrbata also scored in the shootout for Phoenix.

Joe Pavelski and Danny Boyle, who missed the previous seven games with a concussion, scored for the Sharks (10-1-3).

Logan Couture converted the first attempt of the shootout for San Jose. He earlier thought he had the winning goal with 33 seconds left in regulation, but it was waved off, and replays clearly showed that the puck never actually crossed the line. Instead, it was just one of many brilliant saves made Smith.

Niemi shopped 28 shots in the loss.

“We had a lot of real good scoring chances,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton. “It felt like we were in their zone a lot.”

The Coyotes peppered Niemi with seven shots during the five-minute overtime, but Niemi came up big each time to force the shootout. The Sharks also had some chances but did not get a shot on goal.

Phoenix scored just 36 seconds into the game, as Rob Klinkhammer picked up a loose puck along the boards near the blue line and fed Vermette, who skated into the slot and beat Niemi to the far post.

“It was good work on the forecheck,” Vermette said. “We forced the turnover and found a way. I just shoot it and it found a hole.”

Pavelski’s goal came just over a minute into the second period, tying the score at 1. Tommy Wingels won a scrum in the Sharks’ zone and sent it up the ice to Matthew Nieto, who had missed the previous two games with an injury. Pavelski took the two-on-one pass, skated in, looked off Smith and found an opening high to the near side.

“We put ourselves in a hole with the penalties we took,” Tippett said. “There were too many turnovers that gave them too many chances.”

The Sharks took a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal four minutes later. Pavelski’s shot was blocked, but the Coyotes couldn’t clear it and Thornton kicked it back out to Pavelski, who found Boyle on the left side. Boyle skated in to the bottom of the circle and put it into the far corner over Smith’s glove.

“That definitely felt good,” said Boyle, who slammed his hands into the glass behind the net as part of his celebration. “I just felt a half-second behind everything. I did not feel like my normal self, but I will get better in a hurry.”

Boedker took a pass from Derek Morris midway through the second period, skated around the defensemen beneath the face-off circle to Niemi’s left and slipped it along the ice to the far side to tie the score at 2.

NOTES: Sharks C Joe Thornton recorded his 800th career assist on Boyle’s goal. … Coyotes C Mike Ribeiro played in his 800th career game. … Boedker ended a three-game scoreless streak. … Vermette has scored goals in consecutive games. He did not record a point in his previous four. … Morris has recorded points in eight of his last 11 games. … The Coyotes are outscoring their opponents 22-15 in the second period. … Pavelski has scored goals in three straight. … The Sharks have taken 50 or more shots in both home games against the Coyotes this year. … Vrbata improved to 32 of 73 on penalty shots in his career.