SAN JOSE, Calif. -- With Wayne Gretzky back behind their bench, the Phoenix Coyotes put on an offensive show that the NHL's career scoring leader could appreciate -- and then made a late defensive stand that made their coach very proud.
Gretzky was back with the Coyotes after a 10-day leave of absence to be with his mother, Phyllis, who died of lung cancer on Dec. 19 in Brantford, Ontario. The coach didn't say much about his time away, and the Coyotes saw no difference in his demeanor -- but his players' gritty effort against the Sharks was everything he desired.
"You never want to say, 'This one's for him,' because nothing compares to that, but it's a good way to go home," Doan said. "We're finding ways to win games again."
After two slow periods, the Coyotes capitalized on three consecutive San Jose penalties to kick off a flurry of scores.
Morris, Doan, Oleg Saprykin and Mike Johnson scored during that exciting 2:58 stretch early in the third, turning a one-goal deficit into a 5-2 lead in their third victory in four games. The Coyotes chased befuddled Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who was shaky even before allowing four goals on eight shots in the third.
San Jose rallied back on goals by Nils Ekman and rookie Milan Michalek, inciting the sellout crowd and setting up a frantic finish -- but despite a late power play, the Sharks couldn't get the puck past Brian Boucher.
"I really think they came at us pretty hard, and they've got a lot of skilled players," Gretzky said. "Our power play scored big goals, and then we played smart in the last four, five minutes. It was a great win."
Gretzky returned to his offseason home in the Los Angeles area before Christmas, and rejoined the team Tuesday night, eager to return to the comforting routine of the NHL season.
Jonathan Cheechoo and Grant Stevenson each had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who have lost five of six after a six-game winning streak. San Jose opened a four-game homestand but missed a chance to pull within one point of Anaheim and Phoenix for third place in the tough Pacific Division.
"We have to learn to play with a lead and go for the next one," said Sharks captain Patrick Marleau, who had just two points in five games. "We have tons of chances. It shouldn't have to come down to the final 10 minutes. We ran into penalty trouble. It shouldn't take us a couple of quick goals for us to get back into it."
Boucher stopped 30 shots in his third start of the season for the Coyotes, with slumping Curtis Joseph relegated to the bench after being pulled in two of his last three starts.
The Coyotes played an aggressive checking game from the start, but San Jose jumped ahead when Cheechoo scored his ninth goal in eight games, his team-leading 19th overall. With 9.3 seconds left in the first period, Nabokov failed to close his pads on an innocuous shot by Doan, letting it trickle into the net.
The Sharks went back ahead on Stevenson's sixth goal in a stellar rookie season. The Coyotes thought they had tied it again when Sean O'Donnell's slap shot went through Nabokov's pads, but video review showed Doan had kicked it in. Gretzky waved his hand in disgust when officials explained the decision.
The Coyotes' rally began with San Jose's penalties, including a delay-of-game call on Nabokov, leading to over three consecutive minutes of two-man advantage for Phoenix.
"The penalties started the problems, and I fell apart," Nabokov said. "We have to get better. We all fell apart out there in key situations. Penalties cost us games in Los Angeles (on Monday night) and here."
Morris tied it with his second goal of the season on a long shot while the Sharks were down 6-on-3 with a delayed penalty, and Doan's deflection goal 61 seconds later put Phoenix ahead.
Saprykin's goal ricocheted back from the end boards, off Nabokov's skate and into the net, while Johnson's goal easily could have been stopped. Vesa Toskala then replaced Nabokov, who went straight to the locker room.
Ekman stopped the skid with a rebound goal, and Michalek pulled San Jose within one goal on a drive to the net with 9:24 to play.
Joe Thornton notched his 39th assist on Ekman's goal, tying Philadelphia's Peter Forsberg for the NHL lead. Thornton hasn't scored a goal in six games, however.
|Wayne Gretzky watches Phoenix rally for four goals in the third period. (AP)|
|Phoenix (19-17-2) «||1||0||4||5|
|San Jose (15-16-5)||1||1||2||4|
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|02:34||Power Play - Jonathan Cheechoo (19), Wrist Shot - Unassisted.|
|19:50||Shane Doan (10), Slap Shot - Assist: Ladislav Nagy|
|03:13||Power Play - Grant Stevenson (6), Slap Shot - Assists: Scott Hannan and Milan Michalek|
|01:46||Power Play - Derek Morris (2), Slap Shot - Assists: Ladislav Nagy and Mike Johnson|
|02:47||Power Play - Shane Doan (11), Slap Shot - Assists: Derek Morris and Ladislav Nagy|
|03:42||Oleg Saprykin (6), Slap Shot - Assists: Dave Scatchard and Denis Gauthier|
|04:44||Mike Johnson (11), Slap Shot - Assists: Paul Mara and Geoff Sanderson|
|06:58||Nils Ekman (7), Slap Shot - Assists: Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo|
|10:36||Milan Michalek (6), Slap Shot - Assists: Grant Stevenson and Kyle McLaren|
|01:48||O'Donnell: Holding - 2 min.|
|06:27||Dimitrakos: Holding - 2 min.|
|15:54||Hannan: Interference - 2 min.|
|00:37||Scatchard: High sticking - 2 min.|
|02:41||Sjostrom: Tripping - 2 min.|
|03:13||Nagy: Hooking - 2 min.|
|09:22||Dimitrakos: Hooking - 2 min.|
|17:35||Fahey: Interference - 2 min.|
|19:56||Cheechoo: Interference - 2 min.|
|00:36||Nabokov: Delaying Game - 2 min.|
|01:46||McLaren: Boarding - 2 min.|
|16:54||Boucher: Delaying Game - 2 min.|
|SHOTS ON GOAL|
|Attendance - 17496|
|Game Time - 60:00|
|Referees - Shane Heyer, Rob Martell|
|Line Judges - Lonnie Cameron, Vaughan Rody|