If the Sharks are going to claim a playoff spot, taking care of the league’s lesser opponents will be a necessity.
That includes Arizona. On Tuesday, they got past the Coyotes thanks to Brenden Dillon’s first goal since he was acquired by San Jose, winning 3-2.
Dillon’s wrist shot from the point at 5:15 of the third period nicked defenseman Zbynek Michalek’s skate and squeaked past Devan Dubnyk, breaking a 2-2 deadlock. The Sharks’ modest two-game regulation losing streak came to an end.
After falling behind early, the Sharks scored twice in the second period to take a brief 2-1 lead.
First, Joe Pavelski’s team-leading 22nd goal tied the game on the power play. Logan Couture ripped the puck around the wall, and Pavelski scooped it up on the other side before finding room inside the far post, just 30 seconds after the faceoff. Patrick Marleau helped screen Dubnyk on the shot, as the Coyotes' goalie never saw it.
Just over a minute later, Tomas Hertl’s first goal since Dec. 13 gave the Sharks their first lead. Brent Burns found Hertl in front of the net, and the 21-year-old redirected it into the open cage at 1:33 courtesy of Burns’ feed right to Hertl's tape.
Hertl was shifted to fourth line center for the game, playing between Tye McGinn and Tyler Kennedy in what was an effective group for San Jose, including a game-high eight shot attempts for McGinn. Kennedy returned after missing 15 straight games with a shoulder injury.
The lead didn’t last, as Shane Doan was left alone in front of the net at the 11-minute mark of the second period, slipping in a backhand on a loose puck that deflected off of Couture’s skate in the slot.
The Sharks appeared to take a 3-2 lead late in the second period, when Matt Nieto tipped in a Marc-Edouard Vlasic saucer from high in the zone. The net was off its moorings, though, so it was waved off with 38 seconds to go before the intermission.
Arizona jumped out to a 1-0 lead with the only goal of the first period. Matt Irwin’s turnover to Kyle Chipchura eventually resulted in Mikkel Boedker’s 13th of the season on a wrist shot in which he turned Irwin around in the defensive zone.
San Jose is 1-0-1 against the Coyotes. The teams meet again in exactly one month on Feb. 13 in Glendale.
Pavelski jumped ahead of Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in power play goals with 11 - exactly half of his season total.
The Sharks, who have struggled in recent weeks on both sides of the special teams game, finished 1-for-3 on the power play and killed off all three Arizona advantages.
Niemi made his third straight start, and picked up his 17th win with 27 saves. He gloved an Oliver Ekman-Larsson wrist shot through traffic in the game’s final minute to help preserve the victory.
Dubnyk fell to 9-5-2 with 22 saves.
Mike Smith, whose numbers this season are positively awful (3.52 goals-against average, 885 save percentage), sat in favor of Dubnyk, who has played both games in the season series vs. San Jose despite Smith’s robust career numbers against the Sharks.
Melker Karlsson’s five-game goal-scoring streak, equaling the Sharks franchise rookie record, came to an end.
Kennedy had not played since he was injured early in the Sharks’ game in Calgary on Dec. 6. It was just his 14th game, as he has struggled to remain healthy in his second season in San Jose.
Andrew Desjardins was scratched to be with his wife, who was expecting the couple’s first child.
Matt Tennyson was scratched after playing the previous 13 games. Irwin and Scott Hannan skated together as the team’s third defense pair for the first time since Dec. 6.
The Sharks have four games remaining before the All-Star break, all at home, beginning with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. Overall, 10 of the next 12 games are at SAP Center, including the next seven in a row.