Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Sharks run into a wall against Phoenix

SAN JOSE — Mike Smith figured he would be tested by the big and physical San Jose Sharks. It was a challenge the Phoenix Coyotes goalie willingly accepted and mastered.

Smith made 33 saves through overtime and then turned aside two more shots in the shootout to carry the Coyotes to a 1-0 win over the Sharks on Saturday.

“It was a good one for me because they throw a lot of stuff at your feet from all different angles, and you have to be sharp all over the ice,” Smith said. “It was a good one for me to get under my belt.

“We knew they would come at us pretty hard, and I was fortunate enough to come out on top.”

The game’s only offense was provided by Phoenix’s Mikkel Boedker and Radium Vrbata, who both netted shootout goals against Sharks goalie Antii Niemi.

“I thought I would do something else, even when I was in the slot,” Vrbata said. “Then the instinct kicked in and I did what I usually do.”

Smith, who recorded his second shutout of the season, made several acrobatic saves, including one in the shootout. Smith has 21 career NHL shutouts.

Niemi was nearly perfect, too, stopping 21 shots before the shootout to earn his first shutout of the season and 20th in the NHL.

“We still need to bear down around the net, but there are things we can build upon heading out on the road,” said Sharks center Joe Thornton. “We feel comfortable playing this type of game, but unfortunately we lost in a shootout.”

Smith improved to 14-19 in shootouts, and Niemi fell to 19-13.

San Jose, which has gone to a shootout in four of six games, dropped its second straight tiebreaker. The Coyotes are 1-1 in shootouts, both coming on the road.

Both teams hadn’t won in their previous three games.

The Sharks entered with one power-play goal in their previous 21 opportunities, and went 0-for-4. Phoenix came with four goals in 23 chances before an 0-for-3 performance.

San Jose has turned around its penalty-killing. After allowing a power-play goal in each of their first three games, the Sharks have killed 34 straight short-handed situations.

“I knew our penalty kill has been good but I don’t worry about the streak,” Niemi said. “Just stopping shots.”

The last time these teams met, there was plenty of offense. The Sharks scored three straight goals in a 5-3 win, and Thornton set a team record for the most points (9) in the first three games of a season (1 goal, 8 assists). Patrick Marleau also became the first player in 20 years to open a season with three straight multiple-goal games.

Smith, who shut out the Sharks three times last season, improved to 6-3-1 in his career against them.

The Associated Press

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