NHL Game Summary - New Jersey at San Jose
(Tuesday, March 2nd)
Final Score: New Jersey 4, San Jose 3
San Jose, CA (Sports Network) - Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac both recorded a goal and an assist, as the New Jersey Devils built a four-goal lead and held off a furious San Jose rally to defeat the Sharks, 4-3, in the first game for both teams following the Olympic break.
Dainius Zubrus and Mark Fraser also scored for the Devils, who remained one point ahead of Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division race and in the process defeated the best team in the Western Conference.
"This last 20-game stretch for us, we feel it's really going to dictate how we're feeling and what kind of team we're going to be heading into the playoffs," Fraser said. "So definitely, it's a bonus for us to start it off on a positive."
Marty Brodeur entered the third period with a shutout bid still in play -- San Jose is one of the three remaining NHL teams along with Nashville and Edmonton against which the future Hall of Famer has never earned a shutout. Brodeur finished with 17 saves for the Devils, who stumbled into the Olympics but began the stretch drive toward the postseason by putting the brakes on a six- game road winless skid.
Devin Setoguchi scored twice and Joe Pavelski also lit the lamp for the Sharks, who have lost three of their last four games. Evgeni Nabokov allowed four goals on 25 shots in the loss.
"It was more getting our heads back into it," Setoguchi said. "Being away from the game for so long, mentally you've got to be sharp. Just a couple mistakes and you find yourself down 2-0, and then a quick power play goal and it's three."
Both teams were well represented at the Olympics. San Jose's trio of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley played on the same line for Team Canada, while Brodeur also won a gold medal for the Canadians. New Jersey's Zach Parise, who notched two assists in this contest, was terrific throughout the two-week Olympic tournament for Team USA and scored the game-tying goal for the Americans inside the final minute of regulation in the gold medal game on Sunday.
The Sharks trailed 4-0 in the third but suddenly came alive, ignited by a pair of goals in less than two minutes by Setoguchi, both of which were scored from a similar place on the ice.
First, at the 8:46 mark, Setoguchi's 15th goal of the season cut the deficit to 4-1 when his wrist shot from the low left slot lit the lamp.
On his next shift, Setoguchi again beat Brodeur from the low slot, this time cashing in a rebound attempt following a deflected shot from the right side.
Soon after, with the home crowd getting louder, the Sharks drew within one with 8:28 to go in regulation. Strong work along the rear boards by Pavelski kept the puck deep in the Sharks offensive zone. Manny Malhotra was able to muster a pass to Pavelski from behind the goal line before Pavelski punched it into the back of the net from the left post.
Nabokov, who stoned Kovalchuk on a breakaway attempt 35 seconds after Pavelski's goal to keep the score at 4-3, was pulled inside the final minute for the extra attacker, but the Devils used several clears to hold on.
In a contest which could be a preview of the Stanley Cup finals, New Jersey controlled the action on both ends of the ice until midway through the final period.
After a scoreless opening period, the Devils scored twice within a 35-second span in the middle stages of the second stanza for a two-goal lead.
First, at the 11:13 mark, Zubrus scored his sixth goal of the season when he cashed in on a rebound attempt from the top of the crease.
Moments later on the ensuing shift, the Devils made it 2-0. David Clarkson fought for control of the puck inside the left circle and eventually pushed the disc back to the centerpoint, where a one-timer by Fraser flew into the back of the cage with 8:12 to play before the second intermission.
A hooking minor called on San Jose's Malhotra inside the final minute of the middle stanza proved costly. After a faceoff inside the left circle, New Jersey gained control and the puck made its way back to Kovalchuk, who corralled it, skated toward the middle of the ice and, from the high slot, sent a laser wrist shot through traffic and past Nabokov at the 19:42 mark.
At the 5:44 mark of the third, the Devils increased their lead to four when Zajac accepted a cross-ice pass from Parise on a 2-on-2 rush, streaked down the right side fired a wrist shot from the circle to beat Nabokov.
The Devils have now won three straight and seven of their last eight games against the Sharks...This was the first time the Devils visited HP Pavilion since November 25, 2006...New Jersey will also face Calgary and Edmonton on this three-game western road trip...The Sharks converted on their sole power- play chance, while the Devils were 1-for-3 with the extra skater.
03/03 02:39:21 ET