Monday, March 03, 2014
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Unheralded players guide Sharks past Devils

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[March 03, 2014]  NEWARK, N.J. -- The San Jose Sharks sent four players to the 2014 Sochi Olympics and had two others who could have gone under different circumstances. Despite all that of talent, it was two secondary players who provided the big goals Sunday afternoon.

Fourth-line left winger Raffi Torres tied the score midway through the second period, and rookie right winger Matt Nieto delivered the winner early in the third as the Sharks capped their three-game road trip with a 4-2 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

Nieto, who was a scratch in the Sharks' previous game, finished a two-on-one rush with left winger Joe Pavelski, who had two assists, for his eighth goal of the season. The 21-year-old went from sitting in the press box Friday in Buffalo to playing on the top line with Pavelski and center Joe Thornton on Sunday, and it worked out quite well.

"Whenever you get a chance to be in the lineup, you have to have a positive impact," Nieto said. "That's something I try to do whenever I'm in. It's so easy playing with those guys."

As is his way, Sharks coach Todd McLellan enjoys mixing his forward lines and did so for Sunday's matinee.

"I think it's good to shuffle lines because playoff time comes around, guys are going to get injured," Thornton said. "Everybody has to be familiar to play with each other. There's no better time than now to get used to each other."

The victory pushed the Sharks to within five points of the Anaheim Ducks for the top spot in the NHL. The Sharks (39-17-6) finished their road trip 2-1-0, with the only loss coming to the Sabres on Friday.

"Two-for-three," Thornton said. "We'll take that."

That is exactly what the Devils can't take as they try to climb closer to a playoff spot. They were coming off convincing victories against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday and the New York Islanders on Saturday but couldn't find the third straight win. The Devils (26-23-13) won three consecutive games only once this season, in mid-November.

Losing this one after taking a 2-1 lead in the second period on goals from left winger Adam Henrique and center Patrik Elias made it even harder to swallow.

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"We would like to get the six points there," said Devils defenseman Andy Greene, who nearly tied the score at 3-3 late in the third period, but his shot went through the legs of Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock and wide of the net. "They're a great team, and we're coming off a back-to-back there. It's disappointing, but we had a pretty good effort. Just a couple turnovers there and they capitalized."

The Devils had defensive breakdowns on the Sharks' final three goals, including a ghastly gaffe from defenseman Eric Gelinas that sprung left winger Patrick Marleau for a breakaway and third-period goal that beat goaltender Cory Schneider, making made it 4-2 with 2:25 remaining.

Prior to Marleau's insurance goal, the Devils had a chance to tie it on a power play but could not find the equalizing goal. After going 6-for-11 on the power play in their previous two games, the Devils went 0-for-4 in a loss that leaves them three points behind the Detroit Red Wings in the chase for the final wild-card spot in the East.

The Red Wings have two games in hand on the Devils, who are seeing their time run out to make the postseason.

"It's frustrating, but I thought we had our legs right away from the start," said Devils left winger Ryane Clowe, who was drafted by the Sharks in 2001 and spent eight seasons with San Jose. "It wasn't our lack of energy. It was mentally, we have to realize that even though we got two wins, if we're in (San Jose's) position, comfortably in the playoffs, you take your foot off the gas. But not where we're at. We just got to be sharper when we have the puck."

NOTES: Devils D Bryce Salvador missed his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. ... New Jersey also was without RW Damien Brunner, who is out with a charley horse. ... The Devils' next two games are against the Detroit Red Wings, who are three points ahead of the Devils for the final wild-card spot in the East. ... The Sharks scratched RWs Mike Brown and Adam Burish. ... This was the final stop on a four-game road trip for the Sharks, who will return to the New York area in two weeks to face the Islanders and Rangers.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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