Niemi, Sharks hold on to beat Devils 2-1

Ross McKeon, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi outdueled New Jersey counterpart Martin Brodeur on Saturday night as the Sharks chalked up a hard-earned 2-1 win over the Devils.
Niemi stopped 18 of 19 shots, including one late beauty to rob center Travis Zajac with 2:28 left as San Jose improved to 7-1-1 against Eastern Conference opponents.
"We talked after the first period that they're (the Devils) known to be stronger later in games," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "At this point you're just happy with the two points."
Brodeur, who was shaken up late when struck in the back of his mask on a shot by right winger Brent Burns, displayed his Hall of Fame form with 28 saves.
"They're a tough team," Brodeur said. "We knew they would come hard in the first. We battled hard. In the end we had a few chances ourselves, just couldn't tie it up."
The Sharks won for the fifth time in six tries while the Devils saw their three-game winning streak snapped.
"We did a lot of good things for two-thirds of the game," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We took our foot off the gas and went from a shoot to a cute game.
"We had some odd-man rushes where we wanted to get pretty and not shoot the puck and they countered and came back. That's the kind of team they are."
Held to only 10 shots through the first two periods, the Devils broke through in the third to cut San Jose's lead to 2-1 with one second left on their first power-play of the game. Left winger Patrik Elias's low wrister from the far edge of the right circle beat a screened Niemi at 8:10.
Sharks defenseman Justin Braun was in front battling New Jersey right winger Steve Bernier, the ex-Shark who put New Jersey on the power-play by drawing a tripping penalty on San Jose defenseman Jason Demers.
From there it was a scramble for the hosts, who spent more time in the defensive zone than they would have liked and iced the puck several times during the final minute when Brodeur was out for an extra attacker.
"Niemi was not tested at all for a good chunk of the game," McLellan said. "He made some good saves down the stretch. Sometimes those games are hard to play."
Elias added, "We had good chances in the third period. We had a very good feeling we would get another one. We had good chances."
The Sharks were sharp in the opening period, scoring the only two goals, earning the only power-play, dictating play and mounting a 9-3 edge in shots.
"We try to jump on teams, especially in this building," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "We like playing with a lead, we feel more confident."
Defenseman Scott Hannan scored his third goal of the season at 4:25 when his slap shot from the left point seemed to surprise Brodeur, who watched the puck ramp up off of his goal stick under the crossbar. It's Hannan's best goal output since scoring four in 2006-07, also with San Jose.
The Sharks' third line capped a nice cycle when left winger Martin Havlat threw what appeared to be a blind pass from behind the net on the tape of right winger Tyler Kennedy, who from the right circle beat Brodeur stick side for his third goal of the season at 14:47.
"I don't know how he saw me but he definitely saw me," Kennedy said of Havlat.
Burns had a strong period during his second game back after missing 13 due to

injury. Burns had a hard check on New Jersey defenseman Adam Larson to force a turnover leading to San Jose's first goal. And he drew a hooking penalty from Devils defenseman Andy Greene late in the period. And it was his shot late in the game shook up Brodeur.
"Ref started asking if I hit him," Burns said. "It's pretty scary when you see his eyes closed. Someone said the puck hit him in the back of the neck."
Brodeur added, ""Usually you don't turn your head to the guy who is shooting the puck. It was like an electric shock throughout my body. It went really quick. I never felt that before."
Missed opportunities were the story of a scoreless middle period. Niemi came up large on several occasions. First he denied center Dainius Zubrus on a redirect at 3:52, did likewise to center Travis Zajac at 7:29 and thwarted right winger Michael Ryder from the slot in the second half of the period to keep the visitors at bay.
The Sharks, meanwhile, came up with two failures on the power play. They didn't manage a shot of a carry-over advantage from the first period, and put three shots on Brodeur after Burns drew his second minor of the game -- a trip from New Jersey defenseman Marek Zidlicky at 12:29.
"Our power play took a lot of life and energy out of our team," McLellan said.
The Devils lost the services of center Stephen Gionta, who reinjured his right ankle during his fifth shift of the opening period.
NOTES: New Jersey's 41-year-old RW Jaromir Jagr joked following the morning skate that he would have to try and record his first hit of the season against fellow Czech native and Sharks rookie RW Tomas Hertl, who named Jagr as his childhood idol. Jagr likened Hertl's situation to playing with Sharks C Joe Thornton to his breaking into the league alongside Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux. "He's playing with Joe, so he can learn a lot from him," Jagr said. "If he had a chance to learn something, that's the guy. Like I had Mario, he's got Joe." ... C Jacob Josefson and RW Damien Brunner were back in New Jersey's lineup in place of Mattias Tedenby and Andrei Lokitonov, who were healthy scratches. ... RW Ryane Clowe (head), D Bryce Salvador (fractured foot) and D Anton Volchenkov (leg) remain out for New Jersey. ... RW Raffi Torres (right ACL surgery) and RW Adam Burish (back surgery) continue to rehab for San Jose. ... RW Matt Nieto, C Andrew Desjardins and D Matt Irwin were healthy scratches for the Sharks.

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