Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes knock off Sharks 5-3
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Oliver Ekman-Larsson was so good he might have hurt his team's chances of acquiring a top-notch talent.
The 23-year-old added to his NHL lead among defensemen with two more goals and an assist, Mike Smith made 42 saves and the Arizona Coyotes beat San Jose 5-3 Saturday night to damage the Sharks' faint playoff hopes.
''He's such a special player,'' Smith said of Ekman-Larsson, who tied the franchise record for goals by a defenseman in a season with 23. ''He's a big part of this team.''
Shane Doan had a goal and two assists, Mark Arcobello scored in the third period and Sam Gagner's empty-net goal put it away for the Coyotes in their first regulation win since Feb. 3.
Much of that losing came after the Coyotes dismantled their roster at the trade deadline. It led to a 3-20-1 stretch that's put them in contention with Buffalo for the worst record in the NHL.
Finish last and you're guaranteed no worse than the No. 2 pick in a draft that includes projected stars Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. The win Saturday put Arizona four points ahead of the Sabres with three games left.
Ekman-Larsson wasn't thinking about any of that as he stood smiling at his locker wearing the giant belt that goes to the team's player of the game.
''Don't expect me to score 23 goals every year,'' Ekman-Larsson said.
Too late. Expectations are growing for the young Swede, who is tied with Phil Housley of Winnipeg for the franchise record for goals by a defenseman in a season.
''What took him so long?'' Smith said, smiling.
The Sharks went 4-0-1 in their previous five games to get within the margins of the playoff race. Their hopes are all but gone now.
Chris Tierney's tip-in at 6:48 of the final period got the Sharks within a goal. But Smith kept them at bay and San Jose couldn't convert on a late power play.
Joe Thornton scored to end a seven-game point drought for San Jose. Tomas Hertl also scored, and Antti Niemi made 28 saves.
The Sharks fell five points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference with three games left.
''We've got six points that are available to us,'' coach Todd McLellan said. ''We're going to go and try to get them all and see what happens.''
Thanks to several spectacular saves from Smith, the Coyotes took a two-goal lead when Ekman-Larsson put his own rebound past Niemi with 2:14 left in the second period.
Just 19 seconds later, Thornton came up with his odd-angle shot nearly parallel with the goal line. It snapped his longest point drought since going eight straight games without one in his second NHL season in 1998-99.
''I had pretty much everything sealed except for an area a size of my fist,'' Smith said. ''It was a world-class shot.''
But there was no final-period surge for San Jose on the second straight night these teams met.
Arcobello continued his remarkable run since being claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh. He has nine goals in 24 games with Arizona. Arcobello had 12 in 92 career games.
As bad as the Coyotes have been, their power play was ranked a respectable seventh in the league coming in, and they cashed in twice while a man up in the first.
Ekman-Larsson's wrist shot at 11:53 made it 1-0. After Hertl's backhand rebound tied it, Doan knocked in Michael Stone's shot off the post with just over a minute remaining.
''It hasn't been as strong as it needs to be lately, the penalty kill, and it cost us badly,'' Sharks center Joe Pavelski said.
Pavelski had his streak of scoring in seven straight games against Arizona snapped.
NOTES: Doan took two hooking penalties. ... Sharks D Scott Hannan didn't make the trip. He hasn't played since getting hit in the face with a puck Wednesday. ... Coyotes LW Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) missed his fifth straight game. ... Housley scored 23 goals apiece in two straight seasons ending in 1991-92.