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Sharks spoil home opener for Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- The San Jose Sharks realize that coming together in the hostile environments they face on the road during the regular season will pay dividends later on, when the games become even more important.

The Sharks exhibited a bit of that feistiness Saturday when they held off a third-period rally by the New Jersey Devils in a 4-2 victory at Prudential Center.

Goaltender Antti Niemi made 35 saves, including 12 in the third period, to give the Sharks (4-0-1) their third road victory in four games this season. Patrick Marleau scored on a 3-on-2 rush early in the third to give San Jose a 3-0 lead before the Devils, playing their home opener, made it close on goals by Mike Cammalleri and Adam Henrique.

Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton also scored for the Sharks. Thornton's goal, into an empty net with 1:14 remaining in the game made him the 46th player in NHL history to score 1,200 career points.

"No real significance," he said of the milestone. "It's just nice we won."

The 35-year-old has 343 goals and 857 assists in 1,212 regular-season games.

The Sharks are thriving during a season-opening stretch in which they'll play 16 of 21 games away from SAP Center.

"Good teams win on the road and we believe we're a good team in this dressing room," Couture said. "We're confident on the road and confident at home and we think we can win both places so this is a good way to start the season."

New Jersey goaltender Cory Schneider made 28 saves, including one on a third-period penalty shot, for the Devils (3-2-0), who have lost back-to-back games after winning their first three. But the goal he allowed 1:36 into the third to Marleau was a back-breaker.

After controlling a feed from Couture off a 3-on-2 breakout, Marleau drove a shot from the top of the right circle that appeared to handcuff Schneider, slipping between his catching glove and his body. Couture finished the game with three points.

"[Marleau] is a good player, but it's a shot that I can handle," Schneider said. "And I thought I did handle it. I thought I had it and somehow it squirted through, so that's a tough goal."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer thought Schneider was solid throughout.

"It was a tough break; it just kind of squeaked through him but then he made the save on the penalty shot to give us a chance to stay in the game, so that's how those things go," DeBoer said.

Sharks forward Tommy Wingels was awarded a penalty shot at 16:16 of the third period after being tripped from behind by Eric Gelinas while on a breakaway. Schneider got his left glove on Wingels' wrist shot; he has stopped two of the three penalty shots he's faced in his career.

Cammalleri finally brought the fans to their feet eight minutes into the third when his blast from the top of the right circle beat Niemi to the short side to pull the Devils within 3-1. Jaromir Jagr set up Cammalleri's blast with a nifty drop pass.

"You can feel pretty good about yourself one day and it seems like not too many hours later you're sitting here with two losses in a row and you're on a streak the other way," Cammalleri said.

Cammalleri, signed as a free agent this summer, extended his point streak to five games (five goals, seven points). He generated a team-high seven shots in 18:18 of ice time.

Henrique scored 12:10 into the third when his attempt from the left circle deflected off a defender and went past Niemi to pare the deficit to 3-2.Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe were creating havoc in front of Niemi, who never saw the shot until it trickled over the goal line.

"When they made it 3-2, we were just relaxed on the bench and just played our game," Thornton said. "[Niemi] tends not to let in three a night so we had faith in that. We kept it simple."

Henrique barely missed squaring the game a little over a minute later when he took a lead pass from Jagr at the left post only to have Niemi stop his deflection.

"They got more momentum in the end and they wanted to get it tied," Niemi said. "We played a strong game when they were coming hard and that's good. It's been huge start on the road. Last year weren't strong on the road in the third period, so we want to get better in the third."

The victory by Niemi was his fourth in five career games against the Devils.

DeBoer felt bad the team couldn't generate a goal earlier in the game to ignite the home fans.

"It was a great crowd, a great atmosphere and we could have gotten them into the game a little bit earlier and found of way to get one in the second," DeBoer said. "Maybe it could have been a different story."

Couture made it 2-0 when he scored his first goal of the season on a power-play goal at 17:52 of the second period, 18 seconds after Cammalleri was whistled for slashing Marleau. Pavelski fed Marleau, who found Couture in the slot. Couture's shot fluttered but Schneider had no chance.

"The story of the game was special teams," DeBoer said. "It was close to the vest early and both teams were feeling each other out but they found a way to get two power-play goals in the first 40 minutes."

Niemi, now 3-0-0 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .933 save percentage this season, was strong when he needed to be, turning aside 15 shots in the second.

"We had some pushback," DeBoer said. "We had some opportunities to score in the second that just didn't go in or Niemi made saves. We stuck with it and gave ourselves a chance."

San Jose opened the scoring at 17:53 of the first period on a power-play goal by Pavelski. Schneider stopped Couture's shot from the right circle, but the rebound came to Pavelski, who rifled the puck into the top left corner. San Jose has scored the first goal in each of its five games and has outscored its opponents 7-0 in the first period this season.

"We're kind of trying to find our identity as a team," Thornton said. "It's tough to win on the road but we've been doing it."

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