SAN JOSE (CBS/AP) — Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe scored in the shootout, and Antti Niemi stopped both Phoenix attempts to lead the San Jose Sharks to a crucial 4-3 victory over the Coyotes on Saturday night.

Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns and Daniel Winnik scored in regulation for the Sharks, who have won back-to-back games after two crushing losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles to open the week. Niemi made 24 saves through overtime.

Daymond Langkow, Derek Morris and Lauri Korpikoski scored in regulation for the Coyotes, who failed in their attempt to win consecutive games for the first time this month. Mike Smith made 29 saves.

The game was critical to the playoff hopes for both teams who are battling in the jam-packed Pacific Division. Coming into the day, just two points separated first and fourth place in the division, with leader Los Angeles starting in third place in the Western Conference and San Jose all the way back in 10th — one point out of a playoff spot.

The Sharks ended the night in a three-way tie for eighth with 86 points with Los Angeles and Colorado, although the Avalanche have played two extra games. The Coyotes and Dallas have 87 points, but Phoenix has played one more game than the Sharks.

The Sharks nearly took the lead with under 7 minutes left after a scramble in front of the net, but Joe Pavelski couldn’t get his stick on a bouncing puck in the slot with Smith down and out of position.

They then got a power-play chance when Rostislav Klesla was called for high-sticking with 4:05 remaining but couldn’t convert on that either as Smith appeared to get just enough of a shot by Marty Havlat to preserve the tie.

Smith also made a strong stop in overtime on Joe Thornton’s tip attempt off a perfect pass from Dan Boyle.

After tying the game with Morris’ goal with 0.5 seconds left in the first period, after Marc-Edouard Vlasic did a poor job trying to run out the clock, the Coyotes took a 3-2 lead in the opening minute of the second. Former Shark Ray Whitney drove in on a rush and fed Korpikoski, who tapped it in for his 17th goal of the season 49 seconds into the period.

The Sharks managed to bounce back and tie it a few minutes later when Winnik beat Smith with a slap shot for his second goal in two games after 43 games without one. San Jose failed to convert on two power plays later in the period — generating no shots — and it was tied at 3 heading into the third.

The Sharks weathered an early goal by Langkow and seemed to take control. Marleau did a good job to force a turnover by Korpikoski to help set up his equalizer, just his second goal in 15 games.

Burns then gave San Jose the 2-1 lead with 2:32 left in the period when he beat Smith with a wrist shot from between the top of the circles. But Morris tied it in the final second, recording just his second goal of the season.

Notes: Sharks F Ryane Clowe missed much of the second period after being hit in the head by a slap shot from Burns. … Phoenix was without captain Shane Doan (suspension) and leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata, a late scratch with an undisclosed lower body injury. … Whitney has a seven-game point streak. … With his two first-period assists, Thornton tied Larry Robinson for 40th place on the NHL career assist list with 750.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)


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