GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Phoenix Coyotes lost their first four games to the San Jose Sharks by a combined score of 16-1.
That's why the Coyotes felt so good about their 5-3 victory over the Pacific Division-leading Sharks on Tuesday night. It was Phoenix's second straight win over the Sharks, and it underscored how far a young team has come.
"Confidence-wise, we're a much more confident group right now," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "They believe in each other. They believe in the system that we're playing. Early in the year, it was a new system for a lot of people."
Shane Doan had two goals and an assist, and Ed Jovanovski had a goal and three assists for Phoenix, which has won seven of nine to climb into playoff contention in 11th place in the Western Conference. Phoenix has won four straight at home, where it has a losing record.
The game against San Jose took on extra meaning because of the lopsided losses to the Sharks early in the season.
"I don't know if it's sending a message, but it's definitely one that we knew that we had to win," said Doan, who has at least a point in eight straight games. "We didn't want to give them the idea that it was going to be easy every night against us because they've had it easy. This was big for us to find a way to win tonight."
Peter Mueller added three assists for Phoenix.
With the game tied at 3 early in the third period, Joel Perrault scooped up a rebound of Jovanovski's shot at the right circle and fired it through a swarm of Sharks and past Evgeni Nabokov.
Doan made it 5-3 when he scored in a scramble in front of the net at 6:48 of the third period.
The Sharks, second in the Western Conference, have dropped back-to-back games for the first time since a three-game skid from Dec. 18-22.
Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist for the Sharks.
"They played well," Thornton said. "They're getting better. Maybe we just thought we could throw our hat in the ring and win, but it's not the case anymore."
The Sharks will try to end their short skid in a four-game homestand that begins Thursday night against Dallas, their closest pursuer in the Pacific.
"They're huge games for us before the all-star break," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said.
The Coyotes came out fired up for the start of what the team hopes will be a pivotal five-game homestand leading up to the all-star game. By the time the Coyotes head back out on the road Jan. 29 in Columbus, they hope to emerge as a contender for their first playoff berth since 2002.
"We talked about it before the game," Gretzky said. "This is a huge homestand for us. We have five games in a row here before the all-star break. It's an opportunity for us to really get ourselves in the middle of this race.
"Nobody's running away with anything in our division or in our conference, other than Detroit, so it's going to be a battle and dogfight right to the end."
Notes: Phoenix right wing Radim Vrbata didn't return after sustaining what the club described as a "lower body injury" in the first period. ... The Coyotes' Steven Reinprecht left with neck spasms in the second period. ... Wilson will serve as a Western Conference assistant coach at the all-star game Jan. 27.