In a back and forth affair the New Jersey Devils prevailed on Sunday afternoon over the Western Conference leading San Jose Sharks 6-5.
The Devils got off to another quick start as Brian Gionta scored 30 seconds into the game. After Gionta's goal, the Devils and Sharks would swap goals in a wild first period. The Sharks struck first as Rob Blake scored, then Brian Rolston, then Patrick Marleau and finally David Clarkson finished the first period scoring.
Leading 3-2 after one period the game would settle down until late in the 2nd period when Jonathan Cheechoo blasted a shot through Clemmensen blocker side to tie the game at 3-3. Then the refs stepped in with some awful calls leading to a Sharks a five-on-three goal with 13 seconds remaining. Joe Thorton would make quick work on the five-on-three centering a pass to Setoguchi to give the Sharks a 4-3 lead after two periods.
In the third period the Devils power-play erupted for three goals. Patrick Elias scored first at 4:47 into the third, then Langenbrunner would give the Devils a 5-4 lead just under three minutes later. Then halfway through the period Zubrus turned the puck over in center ice and the Sharks Pavelski walked in and through a short-angle backhander over the short-side shoulder of Clemmensen to tie the game.
David Clarkson, who was replacing a scratched Brendan Shanahan on the power-play, would score his second goal of the game with 3:32 left in the game. Gionta controlled the puck along the boards and made a little soft backhand pass to Rolston who one-timed a shot that deflected off Clarkson, who was screening Nabakov, to give the Devils the eventual game winner.
Paul Martin and Brendan Shanahan both sat out today's game with injuries. Neither injury seems to be serious at this time. Shanahan's injury was a foot from blocking a shot in Friday's game against Boston and Martin's upper body injury was a last minute game time decision.
The Devils finished the week 4-0-0, in which saw them play the rival Rangers and Islanders and then the conference leading Bruins and Sharks. In the week the Devils doubled up their opponents outscoring them 14 to 7, including their first two shutouts since the injury to Brodeur. With the wins the Devils have opened up an eight point lead on the Flyers and an eleven point lead on the Rangers.
Winner of 13 of their last 15, the Devils head south for games in Florida and Tampa before returning north to play the Islanders on the February 21st. Then the Devils will have four full days for Brodeur to get in some good hard practices before a possible return for their February 26th home game against the Avalanche.
- Today marked the return of a Devils icon, Claude Lemieux. The 43 year old Lemieux was the 1995 Con Smythe winner in the Devils first Stanley Cup run. Today he saw six minutes of ice-time without registering a shot or a point and was a minus-1. Since returning to the NHL he has played 10 games for the Sharks and has zero points and 10 shots in that span.