NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils right wing David Clarkson scored with just under seven minutes to play in regulation, yet it was the San Jose Sharks, as snakebit as they've been offensively to start the season, confidently talking on their bench about how they'd be banking the two points Friday night.
They were right.
Joe Pavelski, one of the leaders who spoke up when San Jose needed it most, scored the game-tying goal with 32.4 seconds left in regulation and Ryane Clowe gave the Sharks a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center with his goal in the third round of the shootout.
San Jose came back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to snap a three-game losing streak and start its six-game road trip on the right note. The Devils picked up a point for the fourth straight game, but lost for the first time since their season-opening 3-0 shutout at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers.
"After they scored that third goal, we had a few guys step up on the bench and say, 'You know what, we're going to win this one,'" Clowe said. "At that stage of the game, if your leadership doesn't step up or you write that night off as another tough night, then it's not a good sign. I liked how we stuck with it."
Pavelski gave the Sharks a chance after Marc-Edouard Vlasic kept the puck in the zone following a failed clearing attempt by the Devils. Joe Thornton put the puck into the slot, but it bounced out to Pavelski, who ripped a shot from the left circle over Johan Hedberg's left shoulder while falling to one knee.
Hedberg (38 saves) immediately argued that he was being interfered on the other side of the net and that's why he couldn't get over in time to stop Pavelski's shot, but the referee was having none of it.
"There was a lot of traffic in there and the goalie was pushed over to the other side," Pavelski said. "I knew there was a body there, but there was definitely open space."
The Devils were obviously deflated, but in a way they also felt lucky to even be in position to get a point out of Friday's game. San Jose outshot them 41-19, and one of New Jersey's goals came on a shorthanded penalty shot by Zach Parise 36 seconds into the second period.
"It wasn't our best game at all. If it wasn't for Johan, it could have been a lot worse," Parise said. "After the second period we were lucky it was only 2-2, but then you're 30 seconds away from having a chance to win when you're not playing your best game."
Ilya Kovalchuk gave the Devils yet another chance to win by scoring on the first attempt by either team in the shootout. Pavelski followed by shooting wide left and Antti Niemi made a glove save on Parise, giving Michal Handzus an opportunity to tie the shootout.
Handzus made good by beating Hedberg with a hard stick-side shot in the bottom of the second round. Niemi made a pad save on Patrik Elias to start the third round, and Clowe won it with a low backhander that Hedberg couldn't stop.
"When we scored the tying goal to get the one point was important,, and then you want to finish it off the right way," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Pittsburgh has played nine games, Washington is 6-0 -- you want to stay in the race and because we haven't played many games we haven't had the opportunity to bank points. When we do get them, we're going to make it count."
San Jose has actually had plenty of in-game chances to bank points, but the opposing goalie was the first star in its three previous games before Friday's. The Sharks outshot Anaheim, St. Louis and the Ducks again by a combined 110-65, but Jonas Hiller, Brian Elliott and Dan Ellis allowed a combined four goals to San Jose.
For a while it appeared Hedberg was on his way to a first-star performance against the Sharks Friday night.
San Jose had 24 shots to the Devils' 10 before Thornton and Clowe scored goals just 63 seconds apart late in the second period to erase New Jersey's 2-0 lead, which it built in the first 21 minutes of the game thanks to a power-play goal by Elias and the shorthanded penalty shot goal by Parise.
Thornton, who was playing in his 1,000th game, scored his first of the season on a pretty shot from the right circle off a 2-on-1 rush with Pavelski at 15:18 of the second. Clowe scored his second of the season soon after when the pinballing puck hit off his left skate and went through Hedberg's legs.
Martin Havlat, who was making his season debut, picked up the primary assist on Clowe's goal for his first point in a Sharks uniform.
"That's pretty good character by us to come back," Clowe said. "Our line needed to get on the board and so did Joe's line, and we did that back-to-back shifts. We talked about net play, and my goal wasn't very pretty, but at least we got aggressive and hungry around the net. We need to be more competitive around those areas and along the boards, and (Friday night) we were better in those areas than the last three games. We got a couple of breaks that we worked for."
But it nearly went for nothing because Mattias Tedenby's highlight-reel backhand pass set up Clarkson for the go-ahead goal with 6:42 to play in regulation.
"Guys didn't drop down," Pavelski said. "We were still talking about how we were winning this game."
They did. Now they'll look to build on the positives Saturday in Boston.
"If we don't score with 30 seconds left I can tell you we would have a pretty frustrating team moving on," McLellan said, "but maybe this will be the monkey off our back."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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