GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The San Jose Sharks and Arizona Coyotes both acknowledged it wasn’t just another game in the long slog of an 82-game season.
The first of five meetings over the final three months of the season was critical to set a tone and provide a little separation in the jumbled Pacific Division.
Advantage: San Jose.
Tommy Wingels and Chris Tierney scored first-period goals, Martin Jones stopped 23 shots, and the Sharks beat the slumping Coyotes 3-1 on Thursday night.
“We’ve got four more games with them, but we needed these two points,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “You look around the league and everyone else is winning games. You’ve got to hold serve.”
Patrick Marleau added an empty-net goal as the Sharks extended their points streak to a season-best seven games and moved ahead of the Coyotes into a second-place tie with Vancouver in the Pacific Division.
“Everyone talks about every game is important, but certainly this game was important,” Wingels said. “We play each other a lot going forward. We’re in the same division, close in the standings. These are points you need to win.”
On a night when Arizona honored Shane Doan for recently breaking the franchise’s career mark for goals, the captain assisted on Brad Richardson’s third-period score. But the Coyotes have managed just four goals in an 0-3-1 stretch nearing the end of a seven-game homestand.
Louis Domingue made 20 saves for Arizona. He has dropped consecutive games after going without a regulation loss in 10 starts.
“This was a measuring-stick game,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “And we didn’t have enough players measure up. It’s a good learning experience for our group.”
The Coyotes entered 10-1-2 against division foes, one of the key reasons they’ve gone from the NHL’s second-worst record a year ago to a playoff contender.
But a week after blowing a 2-0 third-period lead in an overtime loss to Detroit, the Coyotes have been stymied offensively. Poor passing, bad timing and bad luck have left Arizona frustrated.
“The pace you need to play in a game like that has to be top-notch from the start,” Tippett said. “We didn’t at a good enough pace and we didn’t execute well enough to get ourselves off to a good start.”
The Sharks sure did in the critical first period.
Wingels ended an 11-game goal drought with a pretty sequence. He caught a high puck, dropped it to his feet in the slot, spun around and sent a low wrist shot past Domingue at 6:23 of the first period.
Less than 4 minutes later, Tierney was credited with a goal after pileup in front of the net. Replays showed the puck appeared to last touch the sticks of Arizona’s Boyd Gordon and Nicklas Grossmann before it trickled over the line as charging Sharks center Melker Karlsson knocked over Domingue.
Jones helped the Sharks improve the Western Conference’s best road record to 16-6-2 with a steady effort that included a point-blank toe save of Doan in the second period.
Jones’ bid for a second straight shutout against Arizona — the first came last season with the Kings — ended when Richardson poked in his own rebound after Doan’s feed at 11:24 of the third period.
Doan was honored before the game for passing Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk with his 380th career goal on Dec. 31. Doan’s assist left him seven points shy of breaking Hawerchuk’s career points mark, but he has one goal in seven games.
Arizona is 0 for 11 on the power play in the past three games.
“We’ve got a group of guys that has to play with energy,” Doan said. “When we do that, we’re a lot better.”
NOTES: It’s the Sharks’ longest points streak since eight straight games in March 2014. ... San Jose is 6-0-1 in its last seven trips to Arizona. ... The Coyotes presented Doan with a $100,000 check to begin a new foundation in Doan’s name to support youth hockey in the desert. ... Sharks F Dainius Zubrus was activated from injured reserve, but scratched. ... Sharks F Ben Smith cleared waivers, but remained with the team. ... There were 13 NHL scouts credentialed, including three from Philadelphia.