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Sharks fall to Coyotes - Boston Herald

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Sharks fall to Coyotes - Boston Herald
Mar 30th 2012, 11:52

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Different city. Same result.

In a game that was eerily similar to one the night before, the Sharks couldn't convert on early scoring chances and ultimately lost a tight game Thursday that further damaged their playoff hopes. This time it was a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes thanks to two goals by Radim Vrbata at Jobing.com Arena.

Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith made 37 saves for the shutout, and former Shark Ray Whitney chipped in two assists.

The Sharks came away with no points on this brief, two-game trip as they fell from third to ninth in the compacted Western Conference standings.

Now they have only four games remaining - home-and-away matchups against both Dallas and Los Angeles - as they struggle to save a season that is slipping away.

Just as in a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday, the Sharks had plenty of good scoring chances in the first period. But they couldn't get the puck past Smith despite peppering him with 15 shots. Those missed opportunities would haunt the Sharks again.

That's because the Coyotes struck in the second period on the power play with Patrick Marleau in the penalty box for boarding. After an Oliver Ekman-Larsson shot from the point, Antti Niemi blocked a wrister by Martin Hanzal. But Whitney then dished the rebound to a wide open Vrbata, who scored an easy tap-in at the 3:49 mark.

It was the first goal since Feb. 21 for Vrbata, who had missed the previous five games because of an allergic reaction to penicillin.

And he wasn't finished. The Whitney-Vrbata connection tallied again at 9:17 of the third period. After Joe Pavelski's shot from the point was blocked, the Coyotes staged a two-on-one rush in the other direction. Whitney's pass slipped under Dan Boyle's stick, and Vrbata fired home a shot past a sprawling Niemi for his 32nd goal of the season.

n Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray desperately wanted to be on the ice Thursday night. And he never wanted to leave it the night before against the Ducks.

"But you have to do what's best for the team," said Murray, the bruising blue-liner with the nickname of "Crankshaft."

The Sharks are battling for their playoff life, and they are doing it at least temporarily without Murray, who suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury early in the 3-1 loss to Anaheim. Murray didn't return to that game and couldn't play Thursday against the Coyotes.

Earlier in the day, Murray was still holding out hope that he would somehow heal enough to play.

"You never know how things work out throughout the day after treatments and stuff," he said. "A couple years ago I couldn't walk on my foot and had no plans of playing. But I got treatment all day and took a shot, and then I felt better right around game time. When it's this borderline, you never take yourself out until you really know."

But Sharks coach Todd McLellan decided that it would be better to give Murray the night off.

(c)2012 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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