SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- The Phoenix Coyotes' mastery of the San
Jose Sharks is laughably implausible to Mike Johnson, who scored
three points in his team's latest demolition of its Pacific
The Sharks aren't chuckling, however. Unless they figure out why
Phoenix owns them, they might pay for it by missing the playoffs.
Steven Reinprecht scored his tiebreaking second goal on a power
play early in the third period, and the Coyotes again demonstrated
their mastery over the Sharks with a 5-2 victory Thursday night.
Johnson had a third-period goal and two assists for the Coyotes,
who won for the sixth time in eight games. Curtis Joseph made 27
saves as Phoenix held the Sharks scoreless in the final 44 minutes
of its fifth win over San Jose in six meetings this season.
"No, it doesn't make any sense why we do so well," Johnson
acknowledged. "They have a great team. Somebody (might say) they
have a better team than us. There's no magic answer, or we'd be
doing it against every team. By no means do we have their number,
but something's working."
Oleg Kvasha also scored and Mike Comrie added an empty-netter
for Phoenix, a nearly insurmountable 14 points out of a playoff
spot with nine games left. But coach Wayne Gretzky's team still
seems eager to spoil the postseason dreams of the Sharks, who
remained in ninth place in the Western Conference, four points out
of a spot.
"How do you figure it?" Gretzky asked. "There's really no way
to put a finger on it, but we've had a couple of games where our
goaltenders stole a couple of wins for us, and we've had other
games where we played well, but I don't have an answer. All I know
is that we've played pretty hard against this team."
And the Coyotes are no strangers to mysteriously one-sided
rivalries, either: They've lost seven of eight to Anaheim this
Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier each had a first-period goal
and an assist for the Sharks, who already would be in the playoff
picture without such a dismal record against the Coyotes. Patience
isn't quite running short in San Jose, but the players are aware
they're running out of chances to save their disappointing season.
The Sharks have 10 games left to make up playoff ground on the
three teams -- Anaheim, Vancouver and Edmonton -- occupying sixth
place in the conference directly above them.
Alas, two of those games are against Phoenix, including Saturday
night's rematch in San Jose.
"They always play us hard," captain Patrick Marleau said.
"They haven't taken any games off against us, and it's obvious
that we have."
The Sharks returned quickly from a five-game trip with a dismal
effort -- and they got a scare when Jonathan Cheechoo left the ice
limping in the third period after getting hit in the thigh with a
slap shot during a San Jose power play. Cheechoo, who already set
the franchise record with 45 goals this season, briefly returned
later in the period.
Evgeni Nabokov was shaky again, stopping 23 shots in just his
third start in 12 games for the Sharks, who rested Vesa Toskala.
San Jose's defense made mistakes at critical times, and Phoenix
"They were really important points tonight, and we let them
slip away," defenseman Scott Hannan said. "We've got to come out
with more intensity from the first shift. I haven't played the way
I need to play, and I have to step it up."
Up 2-1 in the second period, San Jose couldn't cash in on a
two-man advantage. Moments later, Reinprecht capitalized on a
turnover for his 17th goal.
"We looked like we didn't have much energy tonight," Sharks
coach Ron Wilson said of his club, which played at Columbus on
Tuesday night. "As the game wore on, they maintained their energy,
and ours had been sapped about halfway through the game."
Reinprecht -- a burgeoning star after joining the club in a trade
with Calgary last month -- struck again in the third, roofing a
backhand off a cross-ice pass from Shane Doan. Johnson added his
goal midway through the third, stealing Joe Thornton's pass and
skating the length of the ice to beat Nabokov.
Reinprecht has 11 points in his last six games. ... Sharks
C Alyn McCauley sat out with an undisclosed lower-body injury,
ending his streak of consecutive games played at 169. ... San
Jose's Scott Thornton and Phoenix's Josh Gratton fought after
Bernier's goal, with both landing several haymakers.