The San Jose Sharks on Tuesday discovered what several other NHL teams have found out so far this season: the Arizona Coyotes aren’t easy to beat inside their cozy, new temporary home.
But the Sharks, after trailing by one in the first period, got even-strength goals from Nico Sturm and Matt Nieto in the second and third periods, respectively, to help earn a 4-2 win over the Coyotes in their first visit to 5,000-seat Mullett Arena in Tempe, Arizona.
Kevin Labanc and Jaycob Megna also scored and goalie Kaapo Kahkonen finished with 24 saves, including five on four failed Coyotes power plays, as the Sharks (13-21-8) won for the second time in their last seven games.
Megna’s goal, at the 14:10 mark of the third period, was his first of the season and gave the Sharks a 4-2 lead.
Erik Karlsson had the primary assist on Megna’s goal, as he become the fourth defenseman in the past 30 years to pick up an assist in at least nine straight road games, joining Colorado’s Cale Makar (11 games in 2021-22), Nashville’s Roman Josi (10 games in 2021-22) and the New York Rangers’ Brian Leetch (12 GP in 1996-97).
Sturm’s goal, his 10th of the season, came at the 5:59 mark of the second period and tied the game 2-2.
Taking a backhand pass out of the corner to the right of the Coyotes’ net from Nick Bonino, Sturm put a shot on net that Arizona goalie Karel Vejmelka saved with his toe. But Sturm followed up, collected the rebound, and chipped into the net to snap a seven-game goalless skid.
Bonino, who was playing in his 800th career NHL game, had four shots on net in 17:49 of ice time.
Nieto then scored his eighth goal of the season just nine seconds into the third period for a 4-2 Sharks lead.
Nieto’s goal was just one-second shy of the fastest goal from the start of any period in Sharks history, a mark set by Stephane Matteau, who scored eight seconds into the first period on Jan. 11, 2000.
The city of Glendale announced in August 2021 that it would not be renewing its lease agreement with the Coyotes after the 2021-2022 season, forcing the NHL team to find a new home after 18 years in the same out-of-the-way location.
Despite speculation about a sale and possible relocation, team owner Alex Meruelo doubled down, reiterating two years ago that he planned to keep the franchise in Arizona.
In an agreement last February with ASU, the Coyotes (13-21-5) committed to play at Mullett Arena for three seasons and possibly a fourth, while the organization hopes to build a 16,000-seat arena and entertainment district on city-owned land in Tempe.
Tempe’s city council in November approved the Coyotes’ project, which also includes two hotels, a 3,500-person theater, and close to 2,000 residential units, at a cost of $2.1 billion, with at least $1.9 billion being privately financed. The plan will go to a May 16 voter referendum.
The Coyotes have had a challenging season, which included a 14-game road trip from early November to early December in which they went 4-7-3. But inside 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, Arizona entered Tuesday with a 7-4-2 record.