Sharks 4, Coyotes 0

The San Jose Sharks have been one of the NHL’s best teams at

home so they should be in good playoff position with their next

four games at the Shark Tank.

Heading back to the Bay Area after a key road victory should

make them feel even more comfortable.

Antti Niemi stopped 35 shots for his fourth shutout of the

season, Tommy Wingels had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose

Sharks raced past Phoenix in the second period to beat the Coyotes

4-0 on Monday night.

Needing a win after a rough week that included three road games,

the Sharks withstood an early push by Phoenix and overwhelmed the

Coyotes to move within a point of Los Angeles for fourth place in

the Western Conference.

”A 4-0 win in a building we haven’t had a lot of success in

lately, it was a good way to end it,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan

said.

San Jose outshot Phoenix 24-7 in the second, going up 3-0 on

goals by Wingels, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski.

Niemi made some tough saves early and was steady after the

Sharks took the lead to earn his 23rd career NHL shutout. Matt

Irwin scored a late power-play goal.

That gives San Jose a little extra cushion before playing four

of its final six at home, starting Tuesday against Los Angeles.

”We have a big game against LA … and we’re looking forward to

that one, so it’s good to get this one,” Couture said.

The Coyotes have some work to do for a fourth-straight playoff

appearance after failing to make up ground with the season winding

down.

Phoenix was sharp early, creating several good scoring chances,

but had no answer for the speedy Sharks in the second period,

dimming its playoff hopes.

Jason LaBarbera stopped 37 shots for Phoenix, which was shut out

for the seventh time this season to remain 11th in the West, four

points out of the final playoff spot with six games left.

”What frustrates me is when you have situations when you don’t

think we’re playing as well as we can,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett

said. ”We don’t have enough players impacting the outcome of the

game in a positive way. We’ve got too many players that are just

taking up a spot right now.”

These two Pacific Division rivals came in needing not just one

win, but several in the final two weeks of the season.

The Sharks put themselves in good position for a playoff spot

with a seven-game winning streak, but followed by losing three of

four, putting them just two points ahead of the West’s final

spot.

The Coyotes had earned a point in eight of their previous nine

games (5-1-3), but were still 11th. Phoenix lost a big chance to

gain ground in its previous game, losing in overtime to struggling

Calgary.

The Coyotes had good pressure against San Jose in the first

period, creating numerous quality scoring chances.

Mikkel Boedker missed on one when his shot from the crease hit

the crossbar. Another drive by David Moss was turned away by Niemi,

who nearly did the splits to make a pad save.

LaBarbera, starting after Mike Smith sustained a lower body

injury and couldn’t go, made a similar leg-splitting move in the

closing seconds of the first period to stop Couture on a

semi-breakaway.

The Sharks swarmed the Coyotes in the second period and scored

midway through, when Couture one-timed a rebound of a shot by Jason

Demers. Couture got the shot past Oliver Ekman-Larsson in front

after the Coyotes defenseman lost his stick and couldn’t block the

shot.

Wingels scored 2 1-2 minutes later on a backhander after Phoenix

won a faceoff in its zone, lifting a shot off the post and over

LaBarbera’s stick shoulder.

Pavelski put the Sharks up 3-0 late in the period, whipping a

wrister from the right faceoff dot past LaBarbera’s glove side.

”The first period, we created some good looks, but didn’t want

to shoot, wanted to get a little bit cute,” McLellan said of the

Sharks’ shift in intensity in the second. ”In the second period,

we decided we wanted to forecheck and use our size, and it worked

for us.”

Phoenix tried to pick up the pressure, creating several good

scoring chances while sending 16 shots at Niemi. He wouldn’t let

anything past, and Irwin sealed it with just over a minute left by

scoring on a shot LaBarbera had trouble seeing with Couture camped

out in front.

The loss put the Coyotes in a tough spot with four of their

final six games on the road.

”We came out in the first period with a pretty good effort and

kind of had the game under control,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan

said. ”Then in the second period, they ramped up their intensity

and we didn’t match it, and unfortunately they beat us.”

NOTES: A moment of silence was held before the game for the

victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. National anthem singer

Patrick Lauder also seemed to hold the note a beat or two longer on

the ”land of the free” verse. Coyotes D Keith Yandle had ”Pray

for Boston” written on his skate. … LW Raffi Torres returned to

Phoenix for the first time since being traded to San Jose on April

3, and landed some big hits on former teammates. He had an assist

on Pavelski’s goal and was called for a penalty in the first period

for throwing an elbow at Yandle after the defenseman slashed

him.