NEWARK – They’re still playing with fire but have yet to be burned, even against a team whose mascot carries around a pitchfork.
The Sharks jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Saturday against the Devils, and then had to hang on to earn their fourth win of the season, 4-2. Special teams play was the biggest difference as San Jose recorded a pair of power play goals and kept New Jersey from capitalizing on its three chances.
San Jose is 4-0-1, gaining at least a point in the standings in each of its first five games.
Patrick Marleau’s early third period marker should have given San Jose a comfortable enough lead that it would cruise the rest of the way, but that wasn’t the case, as Mike Cammalleri and Michael Ryder brought the home team back to within a goal with about eight minutes to go.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks capitalize early, hold off Devils]
Still, the Sharks held on, and have gained nine of a possible 10 points.
“We’ve probably focused on the negative too much,” Todd McLellan said. “We’ll take the win. It was a much better played game on our behalf than it was on [Long Island] the other night.”
Logan Couture said: “We’re playing well in spurts but we’re not putting together a full game. That third period was scrambly. I want to say there was some panic in our game, which is unlike us. [We’ll] learn from it. We’ve got a lot of young players in the lineup that are just going to learn from these type of experiences. Hopefully, it makes us better.”
The biggest positive for San Jose – other than the continued impressive play of both of its netminders – was the power play dropping two goals and the penalty kill playing perhaps its best game.
Couture’s goal was encouraging, in that it was his first of the season. He had been struggling offensively, but had three points against the Devils, as did Joe Pavelski.
“Yeah, it was a relief to see it go in. It’s been awhile,” Couture said.
He also likes being on that top unit with Pavelski, Marleau, Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. It was a dominant five-some on Saturday.
“I think our chemistry has shown,” he said. “We kind of know where each other is going to be out there.”
Pavelski, who whacked in the first goal of the night late in the first period said about the power play: “It’s how it should be. It’s what we expect out of ourselves. We had a few good entries, a few good faceoff plays off it, and we got rewarded for a couple of them.”
San Jose had surrendered three power play goals in its last two games, but kept the Devils from getting many good looks in six minutes of being up a man. Adam Burish’s shorthanded breakaway in the second period may have been the best chance for either club while New Jersey was up a man.
“We’ve given up some goals lately that has really been uncharacteristic for our penalty kill,” Couture said. “We gave up goals that were very avoidable. It was better tonight.”
Niemi’s only misplay of the night came when he allowed a rebound on an Adam Henrique shot he should have handled, allowing Ryder to make it a 3-2 game in the third period. Other than that, he was outstanding.
The Sharks’ goaltending tandem of Niemi and Alex Stalock has been their biggest strength through five games.
“So far we’ve been in a good situation,” McLellan said. “And we’ll need both of them the entire season.”
San Jose will wrap up its road trip against two of the Eastern Conference’s better teams – the New York Rangers, Stanley Cup finalists from a year ago, and the Boston Bruins, one of the NHL’s powerhouse clubs.
Despite some peaks and valleys to their game, they can really make a statement in the final two tilts before they commute back to the West Coast.
Pavelski said: “We’ve gotten off to a good start. Any time you go on the road, if you can win your first couple, it’s big to gain momentum.”