Couture, Niemi help Sharks hold off Devils to grab victory
Though they have gotten off to a strong start this season, the San Jose Sharks believe they can be better.
Logan Couture had a goal and two assists and Antti Niemi made 35 saves as the Sharks beat the pesky New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Saturday night.
The win was the fourth in five games for the Sharks, but they had to sweat this one out after allowing a 3-0 lead to shrink to a goal with just under 8 minutes to play.
"We’re winning games, but we’re not playing well," Couture said. "We end up scrambling around at the end. I won’t say panic, but we have to do a better job. We’re giving up goals late. But wins in this league are hard to come by. We knew the schedule coming in and we knew it was going to be tough. It’s good to win on the road and it’s good to have this kind of start."
The Sharks put this one away because Niemi made three big saves down the stretch and Joe Thornton iced the game with an empty net goal — his 1,200th NHL.
"We made a couple of good power plays and made them stand up," Thornton said. "We’re looking real good right now. We have a group of positive guys and we’re getting really good goaltending right now. We have a group of loose guys who get along well. Things are good. A lot of teams are trying to find themselves early on. We’re still looking for our identity as a team right now. We’ve been on the road a lot of games and doing a real good job."
Joe Pavelski added a goal and an assist and Patrick Marleau had the other goal for San Jose, which has picked up nine of a possible 10 points, losing only in a shootout to the New York Islanders.
The Sharks, who are playing 16 of their first 21 games on the road, were cruising with a three-goal lead when Mike Cammalleri and Adam Henrique gave the sellout crowd of 16,592 something to cheer about, scoring in a 4:10 span to pull within one with 7:50 to play.
Niemi made the lead stand with excellent stops on Cammalleri, Henrique and Damien Brunner before Thornton scored his first goal of the season with 1:14 remaining.
Cory Schneider made 28 saves for the Devils in their home opener, including a glove stop on a penalty shot by Tommy Wingels with 3:44 to play and the New Jersey down a goal.
"We had our chances, even in the second period we had our chances," Devils forward Jaromir Jagr said. "They scored twice on the power play and we didn’t. I don’t think they outplayed us."
Niemi, who has won all three of his starts, stopped the Devils’ first 27 shots before Cammalleri beat him with a shot from the right circle with 12 minutes to play. Henrique tallied with a pin-ball shot off a defender.
The problem for the Devils was they were down 3-0, with Patrick Marleau pushing the lead to three with a hard shot on a counter attack early in the third period that hit off Schneider’s arm at 1:36.
"Obviously, we have to do a few things better at the end, things that we would like to do better," Pavelski said. "We would hopefully get a 3-0 win in a game like this."
Pavelski and Couture had scored on the power play late in the first and second periods, respectively.
Pavelski, who has goals in two of the last three games, got the Sharks on the board with 2:07 left in the first period, beating Schneider from in close after collecting the rebound of a Couture shot from the right circle.
Couture got his first goal of the season with 2:08 remaining in the second period. Pavelski sent a pass from the right point to Marleau behind the red zone and he found Couture alone in front.
NOTES: Devils RW Martin Havlat did not play because of facial lacerations. Brunner replaced him. … The Sharks have scored first in all five games this season. … San Jose is 2-0-1 on its current five-game East Coast road trip. It plays next at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night against the Rangers. … The Devils don’t play again until they host the Rangers on Tuesday. … D Brent Burns had the secondary assist on the goal by Pavelski, and has points in all five games (1-6-7). … The Devils are 2-4-2 in their home openers at the Prudential Center.