GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS / AP) — Radim Vrbata scored twice and Mike Smith had 38 saves to shut out San Jose for the third time this season, leading the Phoenix Coyotes to a critical 2-0 victory over the Sharks on Thursday night.
Vrbata, who missed the previous two games because of a bad reaction to penicillin, had a power-play goal in the second period, then scored 8:17 into the third period on a slick pass from Ray Whitney. Whitney had two assists to reach 999 career points.
The Coyotes rose from ninth to seventh in the Western Conference, while San Jose fell from a tie for seventh to ninth behind idle Los Angeles.
Phoenix and Pacific Division leader Dallas both have 89 points, but the Stars have played one fewer game.
Dallas also holds the tiebreaker against Phoenix, which has won four of six against San Jose this season.
The Sharks and Coyotes both have four games to play.
San Jose has 87 points, the same as Los Angeles, but the Kings have a game in hand.
Smith moved up to a tie for third in the NHL in shutouts this season with six. Only Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles, Brian Elliott of the St. Louis Blues and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers have more.
Smith had 15 saves in the first period, keeping the game scoreless before his teammates broke through on offense.
Vrbata scored 19 seconds into the power play after San Jose’s Patrick Marleau was sent to the penalty box for boarding.
The Coyotes’ Oliver Ekman-Larsson took a shot from just inside the blue line. Phoenix’s Martin Hanzal and Whitney each got a stick on the puck before it deflected to Vrbata, who found an open net in front of him and scored for the first time in 13 games.
The second goal—Vrbata’s team-high 32nd—came after a San Jose turnover, with Whitney on the breakaway directing a pass just over the outstretched stick of the Sharks’ Dan Boyle to Vrbata, who put the puck in the net past Antti Niemi.
There was only one other penalty in the game, against Hanzal for hooking with 6:47 left in the second period.
Niemi finished with 31 saves.
Phoenix was easily the more rested of the teams. The Sharks were playing their second game in two nights, losing 3-1 at Anaheim on Wednesday. The Coyotes had not played since a 4-0 home loss to St. Louis on Sunday.
Notes: Phoenix D Derek Morris, who played in his 1,000th NHL game on Sunday, was honored in a pregame ceremony. … Coyotes captain Shane Doan returned after a three-game suspension for elbowing Dallas’ Jamie Benn. … Phoenix D Adrian AuCoin was back after a six-game absence due to a lower-body injury. … All of the Sharks’ remaining games are against teams they are fighting for playoff spots—two against Dallas and two against Los Angeles.
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