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Coyotes hamper Sharks' hopes of top-4 finish

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- With nothing on the line, the Phoenix Coyotes and goaltender Mike Smith still beat playoff-bound San Jose on Wednesday, setting up a game that means a lot more to the Sharks.

San Jose could have taken a leg up for the fourth seed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, but a 2-1 loss to Phoenix at Jobing.com Arena dropped them into a tie with the Los Angeles Kings for fourth place with 57 points.

"We control only what we can control, and that was what we put into the game and what we got out of it. And that wasn't enough," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said.

The Sharks (25-14-7) and Kings (26-16-5) will meet Saturday in Los Angeles, the final regular-season game for both. The St. Louis Blues, who have 56 points, still could sneak into the fourth spot. The Kings, who lost in Detroit earlier Wednesday, won the 2012 Stanley Cup as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

"We all saw they lost, too," Sharks veteran Joe Thornton said. "You know, Mike Smith is just a great goalie, and you saw it again tonight. A couple of plays, we thought it was going to go in and it just didn't. He has our number. Nothing you can do."

Smith, who had 33 saves, beat the Sharks for the sixth time in the past two seasons, and he has four shutouts in his past eight games against them. Smith won both his starts against San Jose this season, missing the other three games with an injury.

The Sharks' only goal against him Wednesday came after a defensive giveaway in the Coyotes' end early in the second period.

The Sharks' Brent Burns scored his ninth goal of the season, cutting the Coyotes' lead to 2-1. He intercepted an errant clearing pass from Oliver Ekman-Larsson at the right circle and scored unassisted 3 1/2 minutes into the middle period.

Phoenix got first-period goals from defensemen Michael Stone and Keith Yandle.

The Coyotes, who won Pacific Division and made the Western Conference finals last season, were eliminated from playoff consideration Tuesday when Minnesota beat Los Angeles 2-1, the Wild's fourth win in their past 12 games. The Coyotes (20-18-8) lose any tiebreaker for the No. 8 spot in West even if they win their final two games.

"Obviously, it wasn't the easiest game to get up for. We don't like to be in the situation we are in," said Smith, whose Coyotes will miss the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.

"You can go out there and feel sorry for yourself and just get through a game, or you can show some pride and play like we did tonight. It was a nice way to get a win."

The Sharks gave goaltender Antti Niemi a day off, ending his streak of 21 straight starts. Niemi, who leads the league with 24 victories, had a 35-save shutout in Phoenix on April 13 and also shut out the Coyotes in a 1-0 shootout loss Feb. 9 in San Jose. Niemi played all but 13 minutes during his 21-start run.

The Coyotes scored twice in the first period on Niemi's replacement, Thomas Greiss. Stone scored his career-high fifth goal on a shot from the right circle that beat Greiss high to the stick side at 11:56.

Yandle got his 10th goal with a slap shot from the right point on a power play at 17:52 that appeared to deflect off a San Jose defender in front of the net. Eight of Yandle's goal have come at home.

"They overwhelmed us with their forecheck early," McLellan said. "(Greiss) got better in the second and third periods. A young player who hadn't played for a while, you almost expect that."

Coyotes forward Shane Doan, who assisted on both goals, has 814 career points. With two games to play, he is in position to catch Thomas Steen (817) for second place in franchise history behind Dale Hawerchuk (929).

NOTES: The Sharks held out veteran center Scott Gomez and defenseman Scott Hannan in preparation for the playoffs, which begin Tuesday. Gomez, who has two goals and 13 assists this season, registered his 700th career point on a power-play assist Sunday against Columbus. Hannan, reacquired from Nashville at the April 16 trade deadline for a conditional 2013 draft pick, had played in two of the previous three games. ... The Coyotes announced Monday they signed 2012 first-round draft pick forward Henrik Samuelsson to a three-year, entry-level contract. Samuelsson, the son of long-time NHL defenseman and former Coyotes assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, had 32 goals and 47 assists in 67 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League this season. Samuelsson was the 27th pick in the 2012 draft. His father played 18 seasons in the NHL. ... San Jose's streak of nine consecutive playoff appearances is the second longest active streak behind Detroit, 21. The Red Wings are in eighth place in the Western Conference standings, one point ahead of Columbus and four ahead of Dallas with two games to play. ... The Coyotes played without forward Rob Klinkhammer (upper-body injury) and defenseman Derek Morris (lower-body injury).

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