Langenbrunner celebrates his third goal in as many games after putting the Devils ahead in the third.
newjerseydevils.com – What a homestand it was.
Less than 48 hours after they made one goal stand up against the East-leading Boston Bruins, the Devils proved Sunday they can also run and gun with the NHL's elite in a thrilling 6-5 victory over the best-of-the-West San Jose Sharks.
In a contest that was tied five times and featured two lead changes, David Clarkson's second goal of the afternoon broke a 5-5 tie with 3:32 left in regulation and sealed New Jersey's fourth straight win.
The Devils were on their fifth power play of the third period when Brian Gionta fed Brian Rolston for a blast from the point that Clarkson tipped past Evgeni Nabokov for his 13th at 16:28. New Jersey scored all three of its power-play goals in the final frame to finish 3-for-8 with the man advantage.
"It was a great shot by Rollie," Clarkson said. "I was just standing there trying to screen [Nabokov] so he wouldn't see the puck, and it was a lucky bounce off of me."
Former League MVP Joe Thornton was sitting in the box for two of the Devils' third-period goals, including Patrik Elias' 5-on-3 tally five minutes in. The slumping Sharks lost for the sixth time in their last seven games (1-2-4).
"We have to be able to play these types of games if they are there for us," head coach Brent Sutter said. "If that's the way the game is going to be played, we have to be able to do that. Do I like to get into 6-5 hockey games? No, but it's going to happen every now and then. That's why you have to be able to score goals."
Rolston and Gionta each finished with a goal and two assists, while Scott Clemmensen made 27 saves for his third straight victory. Clemmensen's 25th win tied him with the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist for sixth on the League's list.
Jamie Langenbrunner had a goal and an assist and broke a 4-4 tie with his 18th of the year on a man-advantage 7:40 into the third period. The Devils closed out their five-game homestand with a 4-1 mark to climb within nine points of Boston, while protecting an eight-point cushion over second-place Philadelphia in the division.
"It was big," Langenbrunner said of the homestand. "It's always tough playing the Rangers, and coming off an emotional win like that you had the Islanders, who played well against us. Then two games against the top two teams in the League. To get wins in both of those is definitely big."
Now the Devils hit the road for three games beginning with Tuesday's matchup in Florida. New Jersey (37-17-3) has taken 13 of its last 15 to earn consideration as one of the League's top squads.
Jersey's Team is five wins and nine points ahead of its 2007-08 pace through 57 games.
"We're starting to get a little bit of recognition as a team, but I don't think we necessarily concern ourselves with that," Langenbrunner said. "We believe in here that this team can compete with anybody. I guess until the playoffs it really doesn't matter, but we want to keep on playing well and playing well as a team and I think we're doing that. Everybody's contributing and doing their jobs, and we're getting scoring from all over the place."
The Devils led 3-2 after 20 minutes and fell behind when the Sharks scored twice in the final 3:37 of the second period, including Devin Setoguchi's 5-on-3 goal with 13 seconds remaining.
Jonathan Cheechoo's eighth tied the game at 3 with a shot from the top of the right circle that found an opening under Clemmensen's blocker at 16:23. Setoguchi gave the Sharks their first lead with his 24th on a power-play one-timer from the slot at 19:47.
In the third, Elias' 23rd of the season tied the game at 4 on a two-man advantage before Langenbrunner put the Devils ahead 5-4. Joe Pavelski's 16th knotted the game at 5 with the Sharks shorthanded at 10:56.
With a goal and an assist, Elias moved within nine points of John MacLean's franchise record (701).
"There's a reason why [the Sharks] are one of the best teams in the NHL," said Zach Parise, who assisted on the tallies by Elias and Langenbrunner. "They're going to get their scoring chances, but tonight we were able to capitalize on our power play and score on our chances too."
Gionta drew first blood for the Devils 30 seconds into the five-goal first period. The Sharks answered each of the Devils' first two tallies until Clarkson put New Jersey ahead 3-2 heading into the middle frame.
Gionta's forecheck pressured Douglas Murray into coughing up the puck, and Elias found Gionta alone in front for his 13th on a backhander through Nabokov's pads.
Rob Blake anwered with his ninth to tie the contest at 1. Mike Grier stripped Jay Leach of the puck in the neutral zone, and Blake stepped up for a blast through Clemmensen from the top of the right circle at 4:34.
Rolston's 10th was his first goal in six games and put New Jersey back on top. Rolston used Gionta as a decoy on a 2-on-1 down low against Marc-Edouard Vlasic before snapping the puck through Nabokov's pads at 8:01.
Rolston's hooking minor on the next shift set up Patrick Marleau's power-play goal that knotted things at 2. Marleau's 30th was a redirection of Christian Ehrhoff's slap-pass from the top of the left circle at 8:46.
New Jersey recovered the lead off a Rolston-led rush. He faked a shot, then passed for John Madden in the middle. The puck skipped into the high slot for Clarkson, who wheeled and ripped his 12th past Nabokov inside the right post at 12:41.
NJD NOTES • New Jersey potted six goals for the first time since burning the Rangers eight times on Dec. 12, but gave up five for the second time in their last six home games (Feb. 3 vs. Washington).
• Pavelski's scoring chance was reviewed with 4:42 left in the second period, when he took Ryan Clowe's pass in front off his left skate and flipped a shot on goal. It was determined that the puck never crossed the line. Pavelski's shorthanded goal was the third that the Devils have allowed this season.
• Former Devil Claude Lemieux's comeback tour with the Sharks brought him to Prudential Center for the first time Sunday. He finished a minus-1. Lemieux was a member of the Devils' championship teams in 1995 and 2000, and retired after the 2002-03 season, which he split between Phoenix and Dallas. He was signed by San Jose as a free agent on Dec. 27, and made his season debut on Jan. 20. On Jan. 29 Lemieux appeared in his 1,200 career game.
Lemieux played in 423 games during two stints with the Devils, amassing 142 goals and 155 assists over that span. Known as a playoff performer, he registered 34 goals and 23 assists in 82 postseason games, including 13 goals and three assists en route to Conn Smythe honors as playoff MVP in 1995.
• Paul Martin (upper body soreness) and Brendan Shanahan were scratches. Jay Pandolfo returned to the lineup for the second time in the last four games, while Jay Leach was back for his second appearance in the last five.
1 - 0 NJD
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NJD
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 NJD
3 - 3 Tie