SAN JOSE – The Coyotes' fathers were in attendance on Saturday night at SAP Center to enjoy their sons competing in a game with San Jose. The way the team played, it seems probable that Tie Domi, young forward Max Domi's father, was responsible for the pregame pep talk.
Employing the brutish, physical style that Tie was known for while recording 3,515 career penalty minutes in 1,020 NHL games, Arizona claimed a 3-2 shootout win over the Sharks. Despite sitting in last place in the Pacific Division by a wide margin, the Coyotes have gained seven of a possible eight points against the Sharks, who remain in first place.
"They always play us tough," Martin Jones said. "That was a fun game tonight, two teams playing really hard. It was an emotional game…just unfortunate that we couldn't get the win."
Whether coincidental or not, the Coyotes seemed to be targeting some of the Sharks' younger players.
Tomas Hertl was the recipient of a heavy, borderline late hit by Lawson Crouse in the first period, and Brenden Dillon immediately challenged Crouse to a fight. Later in the first, Mike Smith attacked Timo Meier after wrongly thinking that Meier's stick clipped him under the helmet, sparking a feisty scrum. Early in the second period, Oliver Ekman-Larsson flattened Kevin Labanc well after the whistle seconds after Labanc was caught slashing Luke Schenn, and there was yet another multi-player get-together.
In overtime, Shane Doan took an undisciplined and, frankly, dumb tripping penalty on Hertl, giving the Sharks a four-on-three power play. San Jose didn't capitalize on it, though, and Arizona went on to claim the extra point in the shootout.
The Sharks' taking an 0-for-4 on the power play – including a full two minutes and six seconds of time with a two-man advantage late in the first and early in the second after Smith initiated the pushing and shoving with Meier – was their downfall.
"You've got to make them pay on the power play, and we didn't tonight," Pete DeBoer said. "That's the story; a full two-minute five-on-three, and then a four-on-three. If a team is going to try to take liberties, you've got to make them pay on the power play, and we didn't do that."
Although the terrible ice conditions late in the first made it difficult to move the puck around on the five-on-three, Joe Pavelski wasn't using that as an excuse.
"You've got to make them count," he said. "We didn't have any finish. It's on us regardless of the ice, regardless of the situation."
Smith continued his strong play against the Sharks, improving to 12-8-3 with a .944 save percentage when opposing the team in teal. He made 40 saves on Nov. 29, a 2-1 Sharks overtime win, and turned away 38 of 40 on Saturday.
"He's a big guy. He's been in the league for a while," Dillon said. "For some reason he just plays really well against us. He plays the puck really well, which obviously adds another element to it."
Logan Couture said: "I don't think we did a good enough job getting to the rebounds because there were a lot sitting around his crease tonight. We would have liked to bang a couple in there."
San Jose outshot the Coyotes 19-8 in the third period and overtime, but only managed Couture's goal on a pretty passing play.
In the shootout, Jones – who made perhaps his best save of the season on Tobias Rieder in the final minute of overtime – allowed both Coyotes shooters to beat him. Prior to that, he had allowed just five shootout attempts to get past him on 36 breakaways.
"These guys are pretty good, they're going to score a couple now and then," Jones said.
The teams meet once more in just two weeks to close out the season series, and its likely the Coyotes will try and employ the same type of game plan in that one, too – whether Tie is in the building, or simply watching from home.