SAN JOSE -– The Sharks let the tanking Arizona Coyotes hang around, but managed to claim a 3-1 win at SAP Center on Friday night as they fight to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Logan Couture had one goal and one assist, as the Sharks (39-30-9, 87 points) drew to within three points of a playoff spot, trailing the idle Kings. Los Angeles has five games remaining, while the Sharks have four.
San Jose is 4-0-1 in its last five games.
The Sharks jumped ahead early, courtesy of Couture. The center deftly played a Tomas Hertl pass off of his skate blade, and flicked a shot past Louis Domingue’s far side just 58 seconds after puck drop.
That lead increased to 2-0 at the five-minute mark. Shortly after a power play came and went, Joe Pavelski set up shop in his office in front of the net, and whacked in a Patrick Marleau pass for his 37th of the season and sixth vs. Arizona.
It looked at that point like the rout was on, as Arizona entered with just a 4-20-2 record in its last 26. The Coyotes didn’t go away, though.
After getting badly outplayed and outshot 16-3 in the opening frame, Arizona evened things up in the second and got the only marker of the middle frame.
Defenseman Karl Stollery, making his Sharks debut, was a bit too aggressive in the neutral zone leading to a rush the other way. Brent Burns, the only defender back, was caught a bit out of position and tipped Mark Arcobello’s attempted cross-ice pass into San Jose’s net at 2:34.
Arizona pushed after that, and nearly tied it on a three-on-two rush, but Sam Gagner’s wrist shot caught iron. In the final minute of the frame, Antti Niemi snared a Tobias Reider tip-in try on a pass towards the net from Shane Doan.
The Coyotes also had a goal disallowed in the first period, when a shot that looked like it was going in anyway was pushed over the line by the hand of David Moss less than a minute after Pavelski’s marker.
Matt Nieto’s third period goal ended any thoughts of an Arizona comeback, though. The winger managed to put in the rebound of a Chris Tierney shot at 14:10 during a four-on-four, as the team’s third line continues to produce.
Stollery was recalled on Thursday as Scott Hannan, hit in the face with a puck on Wednesday against Colorado, was out with a facial injury. The 27-year-old, acquired from Colorado on March 2, was paired with Burns.
Mike Brown played his first game since Dec. 9, after missing 47 straight with a broken bone in his right leg. He was on the fourth line with Ben Smith and Barclay Goodrow.
San Jose is 3-0-1 against Arizona this season, and 11-1-3 in the last 15 at SAP Center. The teams conclude their season series tomorrow night at Gila River Arena. The Coyotes have not won a game in regulation since Feb. 3.
Each team had just one power play, failing to convert. The Sharks had just one power play on Wednesday’s game against Colorado, too.
Niemi started for the first time since winning in Detroit on March 26, and recorded the win with 20 saves. The goaltender battled an illness that counterpart Alex Stalock, who started the three previous gams, is also fighting.
Domingue was making just his third career NHL start. He fell to 1-2-1, allowing three goals on 37 shots.
Mike Smith is expected to play against the Sharks on Saturday.
John Scott came out of the lineup for Brown. Scott had played in the previous three straight games, while Brown played just his ninth game of the year due to various injuries.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body) missed his third straight game, and is not expected to play on Saturday, either.
Joe Thornton’s scoreless streak reached seven games, and remains the longest of his Sharks career.
Former Sharks forward Tye McGinn, who was claimed off of waivers by Arizona on March 2, was in the Coyotes’ lineup.
After Saturday’s rematch with the Coyotes, the Sharks host Dallas on Monday in their final home game of the regular season. Jason Demers will be making his first appearance at SAP Center since he was part of a trade for Brenden Dillon.
The Sharks visit Edmonton next Thursday, April 9 and Los Angeles on Saturday, April 11 to close it out.