Lowly Coyotes Keep Sharks From Clinching President's Trophy

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Al Montoya and the Phoenix Coyotes ruined what was supposed to be the biggest celebration in San Jose hockey history.

Montoya made 40 saves in the rookie goalie's third NHL victory, and last-place Phoenix prevented the league-leading Sharks from clinching the Presidents' Trophy with an improbable 4-1 victory Thursday night.

Scottie Upshall and Peter Mueller each had a goal and an assist while coach Wayne Gretzky's club thoroughly wrecked the Sharks' regular-season home finale, sending San Jose to just its fifth regulation defeat here all season despite the Sharks' 41-17 shots advantage.

The Presidents' Trophy was in the Tank, but it never was brought out to greet the Sharks' 40th sellout crowd at the close of a wildly successful regular season.

Upshall, Ed Jovanovski and Zbynek Michalek scored in the first 24 minutes, and Mueller added a breakaway goal with 2:03 to play.

Evgeni Nabokov stopped 13 shots, and Travis Moen scored with 7:38 left to snap a string of more than 153 scoreless minutes at home for the Sharks, who still clinched home-ice advantage in the Western Conference playoffs when Detroit lost to Nashville earlier in the night.

But the Boston Bruins stayed in the running for the NHL's best overall record by beating Montreal 5-4 in overtime.

Boston has 114 points and a game in hand on the Sharks, who have 117. If San Jose loses its season finale at Los Angeles on Saturday, the Bruins could claim home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs with road victories over Buffalo and the New York Islanders during the weekend.

Montoya, the former University of Michigan star finally getting his first big-league shot, fell just shy of the second shutout of his five-game NHL career, after blanking Colorado in his debut on April 1. He made several quality saves against the punchless Sharks, and he rallied back after losing his mask in a collision with Marcel Goc with 12½ minutes to play.

San Jose got no boost from the return of captain Patrick Marleau and high-scoring forward Ryane Clowe, who had both been out with injuries. Although the Sharks are back near full-strength after a spate of injuries, those returned players haven't yet gelled with their old linemates - and they've nearly run out of time before the postseason.

Until Moen's late goal in front of Montoya's net, San Jose hadn't scored at home since early in the second period of last Saturday's loss to Anaheim. The Sharks played 65 scoreless minutes against Colorado on Tuesday night, only to win a 1-0 shootout.

The Sharks still are hoping to become the first true West Coast team to capture the Presidents' Trophy, which hasn't been won by any franchise west of Denver in two decades.

Detroit, which has won four of the past six regular-season titles, fell out of the running with its shootout loss to the Predators. The Sharks will finish with the top seed in the Western Conference, avoiding any possible playoff meeting with the tough defending champion Red Wings until the conference finals.

Upshall scored his career-best 15th goal of the season midway through the first period, flicking a loose puck quickly past two Sharks and Nabokov right off a faceoff win by Matthew Lombardi.

Two San Jose penalties gave Phoenix a 5-on-3 advantage for the final minutes of the period, and not even the NHL's worst road power play could blow it. Jovanovski scored from the slot with 18.7 seconds left.

Michalek - the brother of Sharks forward Milan Michalek - scored 4 minutes into the second period.


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