– Despite a late flurry by the San Jose Sharks, the New Jersey Devils held on for the 3-2 victory at the Prudential Center on Wednesday night.
With an extra-attacker on, the Sharks nearly pounced on a loose puck that would have tied the game in the final minute, but a quick whistle by referee Gord Dwyer negated San Jose’s comeback chances as the Devils escaped with the victory.
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Jeremy Roenick had the puck on his stick with a wide open net staring back at him when the referee lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead. Roenick jammed the puck in the net in frustration after the whistle and then bumped Devils netminder Martin Brodeur who took exception on the play.
The loss is San Jose’s fourth straight in regulation, the first time this season the Sharks have gone four consecutive games without claiming a point, and the first career regulation loss for Sharks rookie goaltender Thomas Greiss.
Greiss started just his second career NHL game, giving No. 1 netminder Evgeni Nabokov the night off to rest. The Koln, Germany native was aggressive in net, challenging Devils shooters at the top of his crease all night while stopping 17 of 20 shots.
Captain Patrick Marleau made his return to the lineup after missing four consecutive games with a groin injury. Marleau played 21:04, second only to Joe Thornton on the evening, skating on Joe Pavelski’s left wing at even strength and quarterbacking the power play from the point.
Both teams were cautious in the early stages of the first, making safe plays in their own zones and keeping chances limited. The first real scoring chance of the game came with just over six minutes to play in the first. Following an icing infraction on the Devils, Thornton cleanly won a faceoff to himself and controlled the puck. The puck eventually made its way down to Jonathan Cheechoo who in turn set up Milan Michalek for a one-timer that was turned aside.
Consecutive penalties on New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus and Vitaly Vishnevski gave San Jose a five-on-three advantage for five seconds in the closing minute of the first. The Sharks threatened when Joe Pavelski cranked a one-timer on Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur in the final seconds of the period, but Brodeur calmly slid across to make the save to close the scoreless opening frame.
San Jose wasted no time in the second, scoring on the remaining power play time on Vishnevski’s minor to take the 1-0 lead. Marleau controlled the puck at the point and snapped a shot towards the net that was deflected by Michalek. The puck then careened off the active end boards towards the front of the net where Cheechoo redirected the puck for the power play tally.
Armed with a 1-0 lead, the Sharks looked poised to strike again when Devils defenseman Andy Greene was called for delay of game for closing his hand on the puck. However the Devils had other ideas, first killing San Jose’s power play, then tying the game.
An innocent looking play turned sour for the Sharks when a slow-moving puck trickled towards the San Jose net. Greiss left his crease to play the puck, but a strong forecheck by Jamie Langenbrunner pushed the puck towards the pile. Zach Parise gathered the puck and put it into the open net, tying the game at 1-1.
|Sharks goaltender Thomas Greiss makes one of his 17 saves on Devils forward Brian Gionta on Feb. 20, 2008. (Getty Images/Bruce Bennett) |
With 4:00 left in the second, a highlight-reel save by Brodeur ended a Sharks bid for a 2-1 lead. Without looking at the puck, Brodeur snapped his glove hand over his head to deflect the shot that looked like it was on its way into the New Jersey net.
No more than a minute after Brodeur’s miraculous save, John Madden gave the Devils their first lead of the night. A strong play by Paul Martin and Sergei Brylin forced the puck into the Sharks zone where Madden grabbed the puck and tucked it in five-hole past Greiss.
Just over a minute after Madden made it 2-1, Brylin found the net again on a shot from the slot. Jay Pandolfo found a wide-open Brylin who snuck a shot through Greiss for the 3-1 lead. Brylin’s goal with under two minutes to play in the second would prove costly as it would hold up as the eventual game winner.
Kyle McLaren pulled the Sharks within one when he one-timed a Roenick offering past Brodeur. As strong outlet pass by Mike Grier sprung Roenick through the neutral zone with speed.
Roenick gained the line and left a little drop pass for McLaren who unloaded a heavy shot. McLaren’s blast was redirected New Jersey’s Brian Gionta just enough to handcuff and slip through Brodeur making it a 3-2 contest.
Greiss left the ice in lieu of the extra attacker with 1:08 to play, but Roenick’s chance with 42.2 seconds would be the closest San Jose would come to tying the game, falling to the Devils 3-2.
Marleau – Pavelski – Bernier
Michalek – Thornton – Cheechoo
Rissmiller – Mitchell – Grier
Shelley – Goc – Roenick
Murray – Vlasic
Carle – Rivet
McLaren – Ehrhoff
Greiss – Nabokov
The Sharks return to action on Thursday night, playing their fourth game in five nights, in Philadelphia against the Flyers. The game time is set for 4:00 PM (Pacific) and will be broadcast on FSN Bay Area, KFOX 98.5 FM, Sharks Radio Network Affiliates and SJSHARKS.com.