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Devils outgun Sharks for 6-5 win

by Brian Hunter
Thanks to added offensive depth and the continued development of players like David Clarkson, these days the New Jersey Devils are a threat in run-and-gun games, too.

Clarkson's second goal of the afternoon, a power-play tally with 3:32 remaining, lifted the Devils to a 6-5 win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday, allowing them to end a stretch of five games at the Prudential Center with four straight victories.

Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner also scored power-play goals in the third as the Devils rallied from a 4-3 deficit to maintain an eight-point lead over Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division. Brian Gionta and Brian Rolston had New Jersey's first two goals and Scott Clemmensen finished with 27 saves.

"We have to be able to play these types of games if they are there for us," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "If that's the way the game is going to be played, we have to be able to do that. Do I like to get into 6-5 hockey games? No, but it's going to happen every now and then. That's why you have to be able to score goals."

Perennially one of the lower-scoring teams in the NHL, the Devils' 179 goals this season tie them with the Flyers for the third-most in the Eastern Conference and seventh in the League.

"This shows the versatility and the confidence level that this team has in each other," said Clemmensen, who thanks to the offensive support is 3-0 this season when giving up five goals. "It also shows we can adapt and respond to adversity. These are all character building blocks we have in place that show how we get wins against different teams, different styles, no matter what."

San Jose ended a five-game road trip with its fourth loss, but this marked the first time the Sharks didn't earn any points (1-1-3). Rob Blake, Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo, Devin Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski all scored, with Pavelski's shorthander tying the score at 5 with 9:04 left.

"I think we deserved better," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of the trip. "We're going home with five of 10 points and we had a chance for 10 of 10, and we were right there again tonight. It's a mistake here, a save there that makes a difference, and we are not getting them offensively or defensively. We have to tighten up in a couple of areas."

The Sharks rallied from four one-goal deficits, but not the fifth. Joe Thornton received a cross-checking penalty with 5:01 to play, and Clarkson got just enough of a Rolston drive from the blue line so that it trickled past goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

"It was a great shot by Rollie," Clarkson said. "I was just standing there trying to screen [Nabokov] so he wouldn't see the puck, and it was a lucky bounce off of me."

It marked the second straight game in which the Sharks yielded three power-play goals -- they also lost the previous one 6-5 in a shootout to Buffalo on Friday.

"The PK (penalty kill) needs to be better," Blake said. "You take a lead into the third and you give up three power-play goals and that has to be shut down completely."

San Jose penalties factored into all four goals in the final period.

New Jersey ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage for 35 seconds following penalties to Thornton and Christian Ehrhoff, and Elias crashed the crease to convert a Zach Parise feed at 4:49 for a 4-4 tie. Langenbrunner put the Devils back in front at 7:40 by scoring off Parise's rebound with Setoguchi in the box for hooking.

Derek Joslin continued the parade to the penalty box by sending the puck out of play for a delay of game penalty, but this time the Sharks capitalized. Pavelski pounced on a turnover at center, skated around Rolston and put a backhander into the top corner.

Fans got an early indication this wouldn't be a defensive stalemate when Gionta opened the scoring 30 seconds in, setting up a first period where the Devils would carry play only to have the Sharks counter.

Blake answered at 4:34 by ripping a shot past Clemmensen off a rush into the New Jersey zone, then Rolston responded to put the Devils ahead again at 8:01, beating Nabokov from in close. That lead lasted all of 45 seconds before Marleau redirected an Ehrhoff feed for a power-play goal, but Clarkson got it back at 12:41 with a turnaround shot from between the circles that Nabokov couldn't see through a John Madden screen.

Things calmed down and the Devils carried that 3-2 lead late into the second before the Sharks roared back. Cheechoo's slap shot from the right circle with 3:37 left in the period tied it, then Setoguchi converted on a two-man advantage with less than 13 seconds remaining to give San Jose its only lead.

"I think it's important that you battle against teams like Boston and San Jose, and win games for various reasons," Madden said. "One being they are the elite teams in the League and everybody measures themselves by them. But also it boosts our confidence so we know we're in the right position to move forward."

Clemmensen stopped 12 of 13 shots in the third period and at 25-11-1 is only the second goaltender in franchise history to record 25 wins in a single season. Martin Brodeur, who expects to return before the end of the month, has accomplished the feat 13 times.

Material from wire services and team online media was used in this report.

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