NEWARK, N.J. – Riding a three-game losing streak and down two goals to the New Jersey Devils despite having a wide margin in shots, the San Jose Sharks could easily have given in to the frustration.
They didn’t and started playing desperate hockey. It paid off.
Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe scored shootout goals and the Sharks opened a six-game trip with a 4-3 victory on Friday night, marking captain Joe Thornton’s 1,000 NHL game a memorable one.
“We wanted this to start the road trip out right,” said Joe Pavelski, who forced the overtime by taking a pass from Thornton and beating Johan Hedberg with 32.4 seconds left in regulation. “We didn’t take care of business at home when we had the chances. We had our chances and we tied the game up 2-2. We want to get the next one but it didn’t happen. Guys didn’t drop down. We kept saying we’d find a way.”
The Sharks rallied three times in the contest, from deficits of 2-0, 3-2 and then a 1-0 disadvantage in the shootout after Ilya Kovalchuk converted for New Jersey and Pavelski missed the net.
“There was a little bit of frustration,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “It wasn’t smooth going. As coaches we could feel it. As the night went on and we got the two quick goals, we started to believe again that it could be done. We felt the frustration come back after the third goal but we stuck with it. It’s a good sign for our team.”
Zach Parise, who scored on a second-period penalty shot to give New Jersey its 2-0 lead, had a chance to put the Devils ahead 2-0 in the shootout, but goalie Antti Niemi stopped his backhander. It was the same type of shot Parise used to score on the penalty shot.
“You obviously don’t want him to do the same thing again,” said Niemi, who faced only 19 shots.
Handzus tied the shootout with a shot off the goalpost that caromed off Hedberg’s leg and into the net.
Niemi stopped Elias with a pad save and Clowe won the game by deking Hedberg and sliding the puck into the net.
“That’s kind of the go-to move,” said Clowe, who tied it at 2. “I usually go backhand. It’s a little easier I guess when you face the Eastern Conference goalies. They don’t get to see you as much. Hedberg is kind of a smaller goalie and I have a long stick and a long reach. I try to use that when I go to my backhand.”
Thornton had a goal and set up Pavelski’s tying tally as the Sharks snapped the Devils’ three-game winning streak.
Patrik Elias and David Clarkson had the other goals for New Jersey, which got a 38-save performance from Hedberg.
“We didn’t play as well as we had been playing, and it showed. It wasn’t our best effort, especially around the net and it cost us,” Parise said.
The Devils appeared headed for a victory in regulation when Clarkson scored all alone in front off a nice setup by Mattias Tedenby with 6:42 to play. Clarkson got past former teammates Colin White, who was playing his first game against the Devils.
The Sharks outshot their opponents 110-65 in losing their last three and the trend continued for much of the first two periods against New Jersey.
Elias put New Jersey on the board, taking a cross-ice pass from Kovalchuk on a power play and patiently waiting for Niemi to go down before beating the goaltender up high.
Parise made it 2-0 in the opening minute of the second period with his first goal on a penalty shot.
Killing off a penalty, Parise was taken down by defenceman Brent Burns on a break. The left wing skated slowly in from centre ice and backhanded a shot under Niemi’s pads.
Hedberg made the lead stand up for almost two periods, stopping 20-plus shots, including a great close in chance by Patrick Marleau.
Thornton, who became the 266th NHL player to reach the 1,000-game plateau, broke the ice for the Sharks with what was a bad goal on Hedberg’s part. The Sharks captain took a shot from the top of the right circle that the Devils goaltender simply misplayed into Thornton’s first goal of the season.
Clowe tied it 1:03 later on a goalmouth scramble. Hedberg stopped Logan Couture in close, but in the scramble the puck hit off the back of Clowe’s skate and slid into the net.
NOTES: Elias now has 92 career power-play goals, tying him with John MacLean for the franchise lead. … Devils LW Eric Boulton knocked down Sharks D Douglas Murray with a right to the face in a first-period fight. … Tedenby was the last Devil to score on a penalty shot, doing it as a rookie last season. … Devils C Josef Jacobson broke his right clavicle falling into the end boards in the first period.