Coyotes Can't Solve Antti Niemi, Fall To Sharks 4-1

After declaring themselves focused after a dismal performance against the Penguins in Pittsburgh, the Phoenix Coyotes came out flat again on Thursday night, dropping their fourth game of the road trip, 4-1, against the Sharks in San Jose.

It was the third time on the road trip that the Coyotes have failed to score more than one goal, with all three not surprisingly ending in losses for the Desert Dogs. They have been outscored 10-2 in their last two, and have been outscored 19-8 in regulation on the road trip.

The one positive for the Yotes on Thursday was the play of backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera. With Ilya Bryzgalov still suffering from an upper body injury, LaBarbera received his fourth consecutive start, despite a poor performance at Pittsburgh. He was much more impressive than that Monday start, making 35 saves, but still giving up the four goals.

The four goals would prove to be insurmountable for Phoenix, with them only managing 25 shots for the game and the Sharks outshooting them 29-15 in the first two periods. Antti Niemi wasn't challenged much, stopping 24 of those, with only Ray Whitney's power play goal in the second period getting past him.

Whitney's goal would be the only goal the Yotes would manage, but would be far from the only power play goal scored in the game.

With the Coyotes' woes on special teams costing them so many times this season, Thursday night was no exception. Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton scored power play goals less than three minutes apart in the second, as well as the first of Patrick Marleau's two goals came with the man advantage.

Overall, Phoenix was in the sin bin eight times compared to just three for the Sharks. With the guys on the penalty kill seeing so much time, it made it difficult for them to keep up pace with the strong Sharks squad.

The loss for the Coyotes puts them six points behind the Sharks, and nine behind the Dallas Stars, who dropped a shootout contest to the Calgary Flames on Thursday.

The good news for the Coyotes is that they will have the Christmas break off before meeting up with those Stars in Dallas on Sunday. While Ilya Bryzgalov's return can't come soon enough, he is still questionable for Sunday.

Even the lack of Bryz between the pipes is no excuse. There is work to be done in the desert, and it starts with the Yotes' mentality. A lack of leadership may be to blame, and it's time for the players to start holding themselves accountable.

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