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Niemi Outduels Bryzgalov As Sharks Snap Coyotes' Win Streak

The Phoenix Coyotes did a lot of good in their loss to the San Jose Sharks on Monday afternoon. Unfortunately, it was that little bit of bad that cost them the game in their 4-2 loss.

While the Sharks had come in reeling, having lost six of seven, they came in to Phoenix to face a Coyotes team that they have now beaten six times in a row.

In a game in which the Coyotes never led, the Coyotes were given every opportunity to succeed against their Pacific Division rivals.

"Tonight we made some mistakes that allowed them to dictate the outcome of the game," said head coach Dave Tippett following the loss. "Their three goals were all preventable on our side. We had some opportunities, I didn’t think we were sharp around the net."

The Sharks opened the scoring on Patrick Marleau's 18th goal. Marleau, skating in his 1,000th career game, flicked a wrister to the left of Bryzgalov to give the the Sharks the 1-0 lead.

Phoenix would answer back in the period, though. Derek Morris ripped a shot from the blue line, that initially appeared to ricochet off Eric Belanger, but was credited to Morris. The assists went to Keith Yandle and Shane Doan.

The second period belonged to San Jose, with the Sharks netting a pair of goals in the second. With one of the Coyotes' defensemen replacing his broken stick, Dany Heatley was able to skate in all alone, deke Bryzgalov, and slip a backhander past the Phoenix netminder.

San Jose came back later in the second, on the power play. After a frenzy of passes in front of the Phoenix net, Logan Couture netted his 20th goal of the season, tops among NHL rookies.

Phoenix had chances in that second period. They had two power plays, including a four minute power play off of a Heatley high-stick. They had every opportunity to tie the game in that four minute span, but were met each time by Antti Niemi.

"We had six or seven quality opportunities in the second period and we just couldn't find a way to get it behind the goal tender. That's good signs for the power play that you hope if you can do that on a regular basis you'll find some success. Tonight, we were unable to do that," Tippett said about his team's seemingly-improved power play.

Niemi was solid all afternoon for San Jose, having put together one of his better strings of performances as a Shark. The Finnish netminder stoned Phoenix for 34 of their 36 shots, including 15 in the final period.

Ilya Bryzgalov was solid in his own right for Phoenix. He was left out to dry by miscommunication from his defense on the Heatley goal and did still stop 33 shots. In the end, the Coyotes just couldn't find enough offense to support Bryzgalov.

Some good did come from the Phoenix loss, however. The Coyotes' second goal came courtesy of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the third period. It was the first goal of the Swedish defenseman's career. 

"It was a great feeling. My first goal of course feels good. I got a good pass from (Lauri) Korpikoski and just one-timed it, it was a great feeling," Ekman-Larsson said following Monday's game.

The loss is the Coyotes' first during regulation of 2011. It also snaps the Coyotes four-game win streak. The feeling in the locker room following the game was one of disappointment, but also a realization that this loss was one the Coyotes let get away against a team they've struggled to beat in recent meetings.

Said captain Shane Doan of the Coyotes' recent struggles against San Jose, "I had no idea that they had (our number) so it’s not something, now that people have mentioned it, so I guess you have to give them credit. They’ve controlled the play in the last few but I think before that we kind of controlled it. It goes like that." 

Phoenix will look to turn it right back around when they host the Nashville Predators at Arena on Tuesday night. The Coyotes have split the first two games against the Preds, but were shutout in the last meeting between the two squads, back in November.