The Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks rested Evgeni Nabokov for the first time this season and saw their long road winning streak come to an end. Their All-Star goaltender is expected to be back in net Tuesday night when they visit the Phoenix Coyotes, the worst home team in the NHL.
Nabokov started 43 consecutive games before getting the day off Sunday, and the Sharks (25-12-7) proceeded to squander a two-goal second-period lead in a 4-3 overtime loss at Anaheim. Rookie backup Thomas Greiss allowed the tying goal with 28 seconds to go in regulation and gave up the winner 33 seconds into the extra period.
“Ronnie (coach Ron Wilson) made a decision and I’m fine with that,” Nabokov said. “We kind of knew that sooner or later this would happen. But physically I’m feeling fine.”
The defeat ended San Jose’s 10-game road winning streak, but the team still managed to record a point for the 14th straight road contest (12-0-2). The Sharks have the NHL’s best road mark at 16-3-3.
Nabokov, named to the Western Conference All-Star team Thursday, has been perhaps the biggest reason for that success away from HP Pavilion. He’s 16-3-2 with a 1.82 goals-against average and three shutouts on the road, and posted a 1.38 GAA during the 10-game win streak.
Nabokov has been outstanding against the Coyotes this season, going 4-0-1 with a 0.59 GAA and shutting out Phoenix twice at Jobing.com Arena. He’s 6-0-1 with a 0.85 GAA in his last seven starts against the Coyotes, although he took the defeat in the last meeting, a 3-2 shootout loss Dec. 20.
Nabokov allowed two goals on 37 shots and yielded one more in the shootout as San Jose’s eight-game winning streak in the series was snapped.
The Sharks have outscored the Coyotes 16-2 in winning four in a row at Glendale, Ariz.
Phoenix (23-20-1), which is 8-10-1 at home for a league-worst 17 points, opens a five-game homestand looking for better play out of its own netminder, Ilya Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov has lost two of his last three games with a 4.42 GAA. He was shaky again Sunday, making 30 saves in a 4-1 loss at Minnesota and drawing criticism from Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky.
“I thought the first goal wasn’t a very good goal. Bryzgalov is better than that,” Gretzky said. “I know he’s much better than this. He was below average in Edmonton and he was average the other night in Vancouver and again tonight.”
Bryzgalov hopes the return home, where he’s 5-3-1 with a 1.74 GAA, will help him end his funk. However, he is 0-3-1 with a 2.76 GAA in four career home games against San Jose, including a 1-0 loss Dec. 7.
Phoenix’s Shane Doan will be looking to set a career high by recording a point in his eighth consecutive game. He tied his streak from Feb. 22-March 8 by scoring Sunday with 5:27 to play, giving him three goals and eight assists during the current stretch.
Doan beat Nabokov short-handed with 42 seconds to play in regulation in the Dec. 20 matchup with the Sharks.