SAN JOSE – It was fairly early in the first period when Saturday’s Sharks-Coyotes game started to get a bit ugly.
Roman Polak pounded Tobias Rieder along the wall from behind, earning a boarding minor at 3:07 and shaking up the Arizona forward. About five minutes later, after the Sharks successfully killed off the penalty, Shane Doan grabbed Polak and initiated a fight in the neutral zone, earning 19 minutes of penalties.
The fans, of course, were delighted with the entertainment. But the last thing the Sharks needed, with the game a meaningless one in the standings and the club icing just about its full roster, was a gong show.
Eventually the hostility decreased, the Sharks exhibited a solid game defensively, and Joe Pavelski’s power play marker capped off the 82-game regular season with a 1-0 win.
"I think the guys are pretty good about it,” said coach Pete DeBoer, when asked if he needed to settle his bench down to prevent the match from getting out of control. “It pushed us into the game a little bit, which I don't think is a bad thing."
Facing the lottery-bound Coyotes on Saturday and Jets on Thursday was a challenge for San Jose, assured of third place in the Pacific, according to Logan Couture. They want to come out on top, but they also don’t want anyone to go down just before the real season begins.
Even more important than Saturday’s win is that the Sharks will start the postseason next week with a generally healthy roster. Paul Martin was the only regular scratched for the Coyotes game, but had it been the playoffs, he would have been in.
“These last couple games were kind of tough to play, knowing that we’re locked in to that spot,” Couture said. “Just trying not to get hurt, really.”
The Sharks wanted to put forth a better effort than in Thursday’s loss to the Jets, when they gave up five goals including the game-winner with less than 10 seconds to go in regulation. Martin Jones, still the expected starter in the playoffs, gave up all five.
Finding that defensive structure again in front of Jones, who notched a 20-save shutout, was at the top of the to-do list against Arizona.
“It’s good to see the guys come back out and reestablish our game,” Pavelski said. “Created some chances. [Coyotes goalie Mike] Smith was good over there. Joner was just as good, and it’s good to get a win here.”
Jones said: “I think more important than the result, we just wanted to play well heading into the playoffs. Did some good things, got the big power play goal and played really solid defensively."
Special teams was the difference. Pavelski’s goal came on a seam pass from Joe Thornton at 7:29 of the third period, with the Coyotes down two men. The Sharks went 0-for-4 in the first period with a man advantage before finally cashing in.
“Power play wasn’t great early, but we found a way to get one,” Couture said.
The penalty kill came up big with San Jose protecting its third period lead. Minors to Couture for high-sticking and a delay of game to Tommy Wingels went unpunished by Arizona.
DeBoer said: “We were tight defensively. We got a power play goal. There was a lot of good stuff.”
Are they ready for the playoffs?
“We’ve been ready, I think,” Pavelski said. “A lot of work to get back here. A lot of guys had great years so far, but now the real season starts. ... We don’t want to change anything, the way we’ve been playing. There’s a certain formula to it.”