Hedberg helped Devils weather a potent Sharks attack. (Getty/NHL Images)
The Devils’ bid for their third straight shootout victory was foiled by the San Jose Sharks.
Ryane Clowe's successful attempt clinched it in the third round as the Devils came up on the short end of a 4-3 final at Prudential Center on Friday.
Clowe, who also had a goal and an assist, flipped a backhander past Johan Hedberg to snap the Devils’ winning streak at three games.
The Devils (3-1-1) were coming off of back-to-back shootout wins.
Ilya Kovalchuk, the first shooter, scored on his backhand before Antti Niemi stopped Zach Parise and Patrik Elias. Joe Pavelski missed the net on San Jose’s first attempt before Michal Handzus' shot went off the left post, then off of Hedberg and over the line.
David Clarkson broke a 2-2 tie with 6:42 to go in the third. But Pavelski’s goal with 32.4 seconds left in regulation forced overtime. Joe Thornton got the puck to the front of the net where Pavelski put it into the top right corner of the net.
“I thought we had an opportunity to maybe get it out, right off the bat, and we didn’t,” said coach Peter DeBoer. “We ended up in a battle behind the net and it squeaked out into the slot. We probably, if we could replay it again, would have initially made a stronger play to get it out of the zone. You have to give them credit. They pushed all night. They probably deserved the two points.”
We knew we were in for a tough game. They really took it to us in the second period and I thought we battled back pretty good in the third. It was a tough game. It went all the way to a shootout. It was one of those that can go either way.- Johan Hedberg
Hedberg continued his superb play in the absence of Martin Brodeur and finished with 38 saves. The Devils were outshot, 41-19, and it was Hedberg who kept them in it.
He felt he was interfered with by a Sharks forward on the tying goal.
“He’s standing pretty much on the goal line and I can’t get out,” Hedberg said. “But I’m not going to complain about that – that’s not what I do. But I got mad at the moment. You have to fight through it.”
The Devils jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Sharks rallied. Shots were 34-13 from the second period on.
“I think they’re a very, very strong team,” said Hedberg. “We knew we were in for a tough game. They really took it to us in the second period and I thought we battled back pretty good in the third. It was a tough game. It went all the way to a shootout. It was one of those that can go either way.”
Elias’ power-play goal in the first period tied him with John MacLean for the most in franchise history (92). Parise staked the Devils to a two-goal cushion by scoring on his first career penalty shot early in the second.
It’s unknown how much time Jacob Josefson will miss after breaking his right collarbone late in the first. He lost his edge during a Devils power play with 2:40 to go and collided heavily with the boards. He immediately left the game and did not return.
Parise celebrates his successful penalty shot.
“Injuries are tough, but everybody deals with them,” DeBoer said. “Someone’s misfortune is someone else’s opportunity. It tests the depth of the organization. There’s guys that can step in here and are going to have to do that.”
DeBoer called it “a pretty signficant injury” for Josefson who was limited to 28 games last season because of hand surgery.
Eric Boulton lit the Devils’ fuse with a decisive KO in his first-period fight with Douglas Murray. Murray’s frustration boiled over into a high hit on Clarkson that resulted in a roughing minor and a Devils power play at 12:49.
Elias made the Sharks pay, settling a cross-ice pass from Kovalchuk and firing it top shelf on Niemi at 13:53. The franchise’s all-time leading scorer, Elias is now one power-play goal away from setting the new club mark.
“Hopefully there’ll be more,” Elias said. “It’s nice but I’m not really looking for that obviously. We’ll take a point today. Maybe we didn’t deserve any, but we’ll take it.”
Parise buried a brilliant penalty shot goal just 36 seconds into the middle frame. With Adam Larsson in the box for 90 seconds to start the period, Parise got loose for a shorthanded breakaway and was hauled down by Brent Burns. On the shot, Parise snuck the puck between Niemi’s pads.
“It’s a little different type of pressure,” Parise said. “Not that it means a lot more, but it kind of does. It’s a different scenario. It’s pretty fun. It’s been a long time – seven years and you still haven’t had one. Not that a lot of people get them often, but it’s a lot different than a shootout.”
Parise went high glove side with his backhand in the shootout, but was unsuccessful.
“I was actually going to do that same thing I did in the shootout,” he said. “But then I changed my mind at the last minute. Good thing I didn’t do it then.”
Hedberg was the Devils’ best penalty killer in the second period, using his left pad to rob Patrick Marleau all alone on the power play at 10:16. But the Sharks’ offensive firepower proved tough to contain as they struck twice in a span of 1:03 to tie the contest, 2-2.
Thornton, playing in his 1,000th game, scored from the right circle at 15:18. In a scramble 63 seconds later, the puck went off the left skate of Clowe to even the score. The goal was reviewed and allowed to stand.
The growing chemistry between Clarkson and Mattias Tedenby helped give the Devils the lead in the third. Clarkson avoided a check by ex-Devil Colin White to create a 2-on-1 on Jason Demers. Tedenby won the race into the left corner and set up Clarkson all alone in front for a goal through Niemi’s pads at 13:18.
“It’s always good when you’re putting the puck in the net,” said Clarkson, who added an assist. “It always makes it pretty good.”
He had to shrug off a former teammate to make the play.
“I think Whitey came to hit me, and I just pushed him off a bit,” Clarkson said. “The puck came right to me. I had time to play with it a bit and make the decision I wanted to make.”
Notes and quotes The Devils are likely to call someone up to replace Josefson at center for Saturday’s game in Pittsburgh. They’re already missing top center Travis Zajac (offseason Achilles surgery).
“Our first two centermen, they’re out,” said Kovalchuk. “It’s always a big loss, but it’s hockey, a contact sport. Everybody gets injured once in a while, so we have to pick it up and play for those guys.”
Kovalchuk, Josefson’s linemate, isn’t worried about someone else stepping up.
“It’s a long marathon,” he said. “Hopefully he’ll be back soon because he’s a big piece of our team. But you look at Pittsburgh, they’re missing a couple of big guys, too. All teams get into those situations so we have some other guys that have to step up and play more minutes.”
Said Parise: “That hurts. It’s a big loss for us. We’ll have to have someone fill in that spot.”
• White returned to New Jersey for the first time since signing with San Jose over the summer. The two-time Stanley Cup champ was in the Sharks’ starting lineup and received a nice ovation from the fans when his name was announced.
Wrist shot -