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Sharks score early, hold off Devils

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks got off to another blistering start Saturday night, building a 2-0 first-period lead against the New Jersey Devils on goals by Scott Hannan and Tyler Kennedy.

But instead of rolling to an easy win, the Sharks had to desperately hold on for a 2-1 victory that left coach Todd McLellan bemoaning his team's lack of a knockout punch.

"A lot of good things for about two-thirds of the game, maybe not quite two-thirds, and then [we] took our foot off the gas," McLellan said. "Went from a 'shoot' to a 'cute' game, is basically the way I put it. We had some rushes, some 2-on-1s, some 3-on-2s where we wanted to get pretty and didn't shoot the puck, and they countered and came back. And that's the type of team they are. I also thought our power play took a lot of life and energy out of our team. It has to be better heading into next week for sure."

Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi made 18 saves, allowing only a third-period goal to Patrik Elias. Martin Brodeur made 28 saves for New Jersey and survived a scary incident late in the game when a shot by Brent Burns hit him in the back of his neck.

Brodeur made a sprawling save on Burns shot with 1:31 left to play and remained on the ice for several minutes, but he stayed in the game after being examined by a trainer.

"The puck hit the bone there," Brodeur said. "For sure it's going to hurt. It was more of an electric shock through my body. I never felt that before. That's why I didn't move.

"I feel fine now. I'm just a little sore. I'll probably get it checked out, make sure nothing's broken."

The Sharks (15-3-5) won their second straight game and fifth in their past six while snapping New Jersey's three-game winning streak.

The Devils (9-9-5) won the first two games of their three-game trip through California, beating the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings in overtime. The Devils beat Los Angeles 2-1 despite being outshot 35-15. The Sharks outshot them 30-19.

"It's probably three of the best teams in the League," Devils center Travis Zajac said. "For us to get two wins on the road is big for us."

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead into the third period, but Elias cut that advantage in half at 8:10 by scoring a power-play goal with Jason Demers in the penalty box for hooking former Shark Steve Bernier. With Bernier providing a screen, Elias sent a wrist shot from the right circle past Niemi with one second left on the Devils' only advantage of the night. Andy Greene and Eric Gelinas got the assists.

"We had good chances in the second period, good chances in the third," Elias said. "We got the one obviously that snuck in. We had a good feeling that we might get another one. We had our chances. It was probably one of the better games on the road trip."

With less than three minutes left, Zajac sent a rocket toward the net, but Niemi made a great pad save. He made a couple more key saves down the stretch.

"He played great," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said of Niemi. "With the last minute to go, I thought they could have scored two. But Nemo played great down the stretch. That's what he does for us."

The Sharks went 0-for-3 on the power play, another area of their game that has McLellan concerned.

"Our power play gave them life and it sucked the life out of us," McLellan said. "If we think we're going to go in next week and play against L.A., St. Louis and Anaheim with that type of power play, we're not going to come away with very many wins. It's going to have to help us. We'll work on it a couple days in practice and try to take it up a notch there."

The Sharks built a 2-0 lead in the first period, outshooting New Jersey 9-3. They've outscored their opponents 32-12 in the first period; their edge in the third period is just 23-17.

"The guys are coming to the rink prepared," McLellan said. "They're full of energy and want to use it. They play the game the right way early in the game, and then it can get away on us later on for whatever reason. It's something that we have to fix. I told the guys on the road trip I think that's one of the biggest areas that we can improve in is sticking with the game plan, putting teams away, managing a lead and playing our game through that, not wandering off and doing something different or slowing it down."

Hannan opened the scoring at 4:25 with his third goal of the season, beating Brodeur with a slap shot from well above the left circle. Burns set the scoring play in motion, delivering a huge hit on Devils defenseman Adam Larsson behind the net and sending the puck to Thornton. The Sharks' captain threaded a cross-ice pass to Hannan, who skated in and, with Tomas Hertl providing a screen, unloaded a shot that beat Brodeur.

"Tomas and [Burns] just went on the forecheck so hard," Thornton said. "We were just close to each other and he made a shovel pass to me, then over to Hanner and Hanner made a great shot. Just a hard forecheck created that goal."

Hannan, who has been in the lineup for 22 of 23 games, already has more goals than in any season since 2006-07 when he scored four for the Sharks. His career high is six.

The Sharks increased their lead to 2-0 on Kennedy's one-timer from the right circle at 14:47. From behind the net, Martin Havlat sent a pass to a wide-open Kennedy, who beat Brodeur to his stick side for his third goal of the season and first since Nov. 5.

"Marty just found me," Kennedy said. "It was a great pass. That's why he's a great player. He makes great passes. I don't know how he saw me but he definitely saw me. I tried to go down the pipe and he made a great pass."

Devils fourth-line center Stephen Gionta injured an ankle in the first period and did not return.

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