Former Boston University forward Matt Nieto scored the game-winner in the third period as the San Jose Sharks tallied three unanswered goals to top the New Jersey Devils, 4-2, on Sunday afternoon in an NHL contest at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Nieto scored 6:20 into the final frame, one-timing home a pass from Joe Pavelski, who assisted on both the tying and winning goals, to break a 2-2 tie. Alex Stalock had 21 saves for the Sharks (39-17-6) to personally improve to 10-4 on the season.
Jon Merrill assisted on New Jersey's second goal, while Cory Schneider had 18 stops for the host Devils (26-23-13), who went 0-of-4 on the power play. The loss also snapped New Jersey's two-game post-Olympics winning streak.
“Even though we lost, I thought the effort was there," said Devils forward Ryane Clowe, who faced his former San Jose teammates on Sunday, to The Star-Ledger (nj.com). "But we have to get back to where we were the first two games after the break."
After Logan Couture gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead off of a rebound to Schneider's left at 3:26 of the second period, Adam Henrique brought the Devils back even 77 seconds later when he redirected home a crossing feed from the right wing by Steve Bernier. The goal was Henrique's 18th of the year, and tied him for the team lead with Jaromir Jagr, who notched his 700th career NHL goal on Saturday in a 6-1 win over the New York Islanders.
New Jersey took a 2-1 lead against the Sharks when Patrik Elias tipped home Merrill's shot from the left point at 14:22 for his 13th goal of the winter, but Raffi Torres tied it up again for San Jose at 15:54 when he converted a 2-on-1 break with Pavelski. Torres now has three goals in his first two games back, after sitting out most of the season following knee surgery.
Following Nieto's heroics with his seventh goal of the season, Patrick Marleau picked off a pass and wristed a shot past Schneider with 2:25 remaining in regulation to close out the scoring. It was Marleau's 25th goal of the 2013-14 campaign, the ninth time he has hit that mark in his NHL career, all with the Sharks.
New Jersey outshot San Jose, 23-22, on the afternoon, and the Devils will now host Detroit on Tuesday night in the first meeting of a home-and-home series. The Sharks, who completed a three-game road trip with two wins following Sunday's contest, will entertain Carolina tomorrow evening.
“You have to have a short term memory this time of year,” said Devils head coach Peter DeBoer to nj.com.“We gave ourselves a chance to win and we didn’t. We have to regroup and be ready for Tuesday because they’re all big.”
In-between the two games with the Red Wings is the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday. Tuesday's game might be the last one in New Jersey for long-time Devils goaltender and future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, if the Devils find a situation to his liking and he decides to waive his no-trade clause.
"At the end of the day, regardless of if I’m going to go somewhere or stay here, that’s the business part of the game,” said Brodeur, who played in Saturday's win on Long Island, to NJ.com on Monday.
As of today, the Devils were in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division, four points behind the third-place New York Rangers with just 20 games remaining for both clubs. New Jersey is looking to avoid missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the third time in four seasons.