GLENDALE — Antti Niemi stopped 35 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, Logan Couture scored two goals, and the San Jose Sharks earned a key road victory by racing past the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 on Monday night.
Needing a win after a rough week, the Sharks overwhelmed Phoenix in the second period to move within a point of Los Angeles for fourth place in the Western Conference.
San Jose outshot Phoenix 24-7 in the period, going up 3-0 on goals by Tommy Wingels, Couture and Joe Pavelski. Niemi made some tough saves early and was steady after the Sharks took the lead to earn his 23rd career NHL shutout.
Jason LaBarbera stopped 37 shots for Phoenix, which remained 11th in the West and four points out of the final playoff spot with six games left.
These two Pacific Division rivals came in needing not just one win, but several as the season winds down in its final two weeks.
The Sharks put themselves in good position for a playoff spot with a seven-game winning streak, but followed by losing three of four, putting them just two points ahead of the West’s final spot.
The Coyotes earned a point in eight of their previous nine games (5-1-3), but were still 11th. Phoenix lost a big chance to gain ground in its previous game, losing in overtime to struggling Calgary.
The Coyotes had good pressure against San Jose in the first period, creating numerous quality scoring chances.
Mikkel Boedker missed on one when his shot from the crease hit the crossbar, and another drive by David Moss was turned away by Niemi, who nearly did the splits to make a pad save.
LaBarbera, starting after Mike Smith sustained a lower body injury and couldn’t go, made a similar leg-splitting move in the closing seconds of the first period to stop Couture on a semi-breakaway.
The Sharks swarmed the Coyotes in the second period and scored midway through, when Couture one-timed a rebound on a shot by Jason Demers. Couture got the shot past Oliver Ekman-Larsson in front after the Coyotes defenseman lost his stick and couldn’t block the shot.
Wingels scored 2 1-2 minutes later on a backhander after Phoenix won a faceoff in its zone, lifting a shot off the post over LaBarbera’s stick shoulder.
Pavelski put the Sharks up 3-0 late in the period, whipping a wrister from the right faceoff dot past LaBarbera’s glove side.
Niemi stopped 16 shots in the third period, and Couture scored his second goal with just over a minute left on a power play after a shot by Matt Irwin bounced off his back past LaBarbera.
NOTES: A moment of silence was held before the game for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. National anthem singer Patrick Lauder also seemed to hold the note a beat or two longer on the “land of the free” verse. Coyotes D Keith Yandle had “Pray for Boston” written on his skate. ... LW Raffi Torres returned to Phoenix for the first time since being traded to San Jose on April 3, and landed some big hits on former teammates. He was called for a penalty in the first period for throwing an elbow at Yandle after the defenseman slashed him.