Ever since a recent team meeting, things have turned around for the Devils. Their latest conquest at their new home digs came on the strength of a big second period and extended the road woes of the sinking Sharks.
John Madden and Sergei Brylin scored 1:10 apart during New Jersey's three-goal period, and the Devils took advantage of backup goalie Thomas Greiss and beat San Jose 3-2 Wednesday night.
New Jersey is tied for first place in the Eastern Conference, while the Sharks have slipped to the edge of the playoff race out West.
"It's second nature. When you battle for positioning or you look at other teams it's important you know where you stand," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "Sometimes you see something and it motivates you. You always look at it."
During a rare night off for San Jose ironman Evgeni Nabokov, the Devils scored three goals on 10 shots in the pivotal period and won their third straight and fifth in six games (5-0-1), dating to the Feb. 8 team meeting. They were outshot 32-20 and went without a power-play chance until the third.
The Devils were 3-6 in their previous nine home games.
"Timing is one thing for meetings," captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "It may have put guys at ease a little bit."
San Jose has hit the skids and dropped its season-worst fifth in a row overall (0-4-1), including the first three of an eight-game Eastern road swing. The Sharks were 16-3-2 away from home on Jan. 1, but have gone 1-5-1 on the road since - losing four straight.
After Jonathan Cheechoo gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead with a power-play tally in the opening minute of the second, New Jersey stormed back on goals from Zach Parise, Madden and Brylin in a 10-minute span.
"We're right in the thick of things," Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick said. "If we win some hockey games we'll be OK. We're not playing bad hockey. We've got to score more goals and we have to stay away from the mistakes."
San Jose cut the deficit to 3-2 with 6:06 left on Kyle McLaren's goal that deflected in off the stick of Devils forward Brian Gionta.
Brodeur earned his NHL-best 33rd victory.
Greiss made his third career appearance and second start in place of Nabokov, who sat for the second time in San Jose's 60 games. Greiss had a brief relief outing in the Sharks' 3-2 loss Monday to the New York Islanders after a shot broke the cage on Nabokov's mask and bloodied his nose.
"It doesn't matter," Greiss said of his scarce playing time. "I just try to go into every game the same way and just be ready."
Nabokov came back for the third period, but couldn't protect a 2-0 lead. With the Sharks playing their fourth game in five days Thursday in Philadelphia, Nabokov would've had a day off anyway.
San Jose center Patrick Marleau, the subject of trade rumors as Tuesday's NHL trade deadline approaches, rejoined the Sharks lineup after missing four games due to a groin injury. He had an assist, but it wasn't enough.
Marleau averaged 30 goals the previous four seasons but has scored only 10 in 55 games this season for the Sharks, who came in averaging only 2.56 goals per game, sixth fewest in the NHL.
|Martin Brodeur (30) makes a stick save as teammates John Oduya (29) and Jamie Langenbrunner (15) get set to clear the puck. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)|
During its previous three games - all regulation losses - San Jose managed just five goals, but Cheechoo has enjoyed an offensive surge with five goals in six games.
Marleau's shot from the right point hit the stick of linemate Milan Michalek and caromed off the end boards. The puck found it's way into the crease, and Cheechoo got his stick on it with a poke as it was on Brodeur's goal stick 35 seconds into the period.
The Devils tied it at 7:56.
A loose puck slid, tantalizingly slow, off Langenbrunner's stick toward the net, and Greiss charged to the hash marks as Parise raced toward him. Parise got there as the puck went behind Greiss and slipped a shot into the vacated net for his 24th.
"I gave up a couple soft goals," Greiss said. "I should have just stayed in the net and go from there."
"That was Zach going hard to the net again," Langenbrunner said. "When there is a puck laying around the net, he likes chasing it down."
Brodeur made a brilliant glove save over his head with just over 4 minutes left in the period when Marcel Goc got the shaft of his stick on a shot in front.
"I just waved my glove and I felt it. I said, 'Wow, I hit the one.' Pretty lucky," Brodeur said.
Madden tucked a shot in at the right post with 3:04 left, and Brylin squeezed a shot under Greiss' arm, off a pass from Jay Pandolfo, at 18:06 to make it 3-1.
Notes: Devils D Colin White sat out with an upper body injury sustained Monday. ... Pandolfo's assist gave him 200 NHL points. ... Greiss made his NHL debut with an overtime loss at Anaheim on Jan. 13, the only other game Nabokov missed. ... Joe Thornton took the only penalty for the Sharks, who were 1-for-4 on the power play.
|PPG - Jonathan Cheechoo (16) ASST: Milan Michalek (22), Patrick Marleau (19)|
1 - 0 SJS
|Zach Parise (24) ASST: Jamie Langenbrunner (25), Patrik Elias (26)|
1 - 1 Tie
|John Madden (16) ASST: Sergei Brylin (8), Paul Martin (21)|
2 - 1 NJD
|Sergei Brylin (6) ASST: Jay Pandolfo (9), Patrik Elias (27)|
3 - 1 NJD
|Kyle McLaren (2) ASST: Jeremy Roenick (13), Michael Grier (11)|
3 - 2 NJD
|Dainius Zubrus Hooking against Joe Thornton|
|Vitaly Vishnevski Interference against Steve Bernier|
|Andy Greene Closing hand on puck|
|Brian Gionta Tripping against Marc-Edouard Vlasic|
|Joe Thornton Interference against Zach Parise|