San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture (39) moves in on the puck to get it past Phoenix Coyotes' Ilya Bryzgalov, left, of Russia, for a goal as Coyotes' Lee Stempniak (22) and Rostislav Klesla (16), of the Czech Republic, move in late as Sharks' Dany Heatley (15) looks on during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 26, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Logan Couture made another big push in his bid for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie—at the Phoenix Coyotes' expense.
Couture scored twice, reaching 30 goals to pad his San Jose rookie record, and added an assist in the Sharks' 4-1 victory over the Coyotes on Saturday night.
"We noticed (Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov) was not seeing the puck all that well, so just fired on net," Couture said. "(Bryzgalov) is one of the best in the league, but with the kind of night he was having, we wanted to put as many pucks on net as possible."
Antti Niemi made 25 saves for his 31st victory of the season to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over the Coyotes for the top spot in the Pacific Division. Since Jan. 15, Niemi is 22-4-4.
San Jose coach Todd McLellan recognized Couture's contribution, and his increasing value to the team.
"Logan has been a catalyst, and at times, carried this team," McLellan said. "He has given contributions from everywhere, from scoring, to winning faceoffs and penalty killing. For Logan to reach 30 goals is a great reward for a heck of a good season to this point."
Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe also scored for San Jose, 6-1-3 in its last 10 games.
Mikkel Boedker scored for the Coyotes. The loss was only Phoenix's second in its last 11 games.
As strong as Bryzgalov has been recently in goal, he failed to handle several shots. Three of the four goals came off rebounds.
Couture later picked his up his second of the game on a shot from the blue line that eluded Bryzgalov at 12:13 of the final period.
For the third game in a row, Phoenix started slowly, managing only two shots on Niemi in the first 13 minutes, and just five in the opening period.
"I'm disappointed because we didn't leave everything on the ice," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "I didn't see enough desperation in this game."
The Coyotes paid for their slow start, and the sloppy play from Bryzgalov.
Early in the opening period, Bryzgalov failed to cover Clowe's shot in front and Couture converted the loose puck just over five minutes into the game.
The Coyotes quickly responded. Derek Morris' one-timer was deflected in front to Boedker, who slid the puck to the right of Niemi for his fourth of the season at 6:23 of the opening period.
The Sharks regained the lead on another rebound left by Bryzgalov.
Following a two-on-one with Joe Thornton and Pavelski, Bryzgalov couldn't handle Thornton's wrist shot and Pavelski backhanded in the rebound at 3:35 of the second period.
Then, Clowe drove in his 24th of the season from a rebound in front when Bryzgalov failed to handle Devin Setoguchi's drive with just over five minutes remaining in the middle period.
"We weren't good enough in any area," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan. "They kind of controlled play and we have to be better than what we showed, and we know that."
NOTES: The Coyotes scratched forwards Vernon Fiddler, Martin Hanzal and Lauri Korpikoski and recalled forward Ryan Hollweg from San Antonio. ... Morris' first-period assist was his 300th in the NHL.