There were a lot of storylines coming into the Devils-Sharks game at The Rock last night. From Pete DeBoer’s return to New Jersey as the new head coach of the Sharks to San Jose’s Logan Couture breaking his leg on Prudential Center ice in practice on Thursday after getting his skate caught in a rut to the Sharks’ Martin Jones’ shutout streak (which would reach 234:33 by game’s end, a Sharks franchise record). But more than any other story was the Devils’ need for a win. The team was 0-3-0 and had not registered a point under the new regime. This would change slightly as the Devils stayed in a game with a good San Jose team and earned a point before dropping a shootout.
Despite Couture’s gruesome injury, the Devils were also without a major part of their offense. Travis Zajac was scratched due to a lower body injury that had been hampering him for some time. Also sitting for the Devils were Eric Gelinas and Stefan Matteau. Yann Danis was back down in Albany, as Keith Kinkaid was back on the bench backing up Cory Schneider.
San Jose got on the board extremely early as Patrick Marleau beat a returning Cory Schneider at 2:01 of the first. After that, Cory shut down the Sharks, even stopping Marleau on a penalty shot in the second period when Andy Greene was beat on a breakaway and called for a questionable hook.
The Devils had seemingly tied the game with about a minute left in the second when Jacob Josefson finally slipped one past Jones. However, Stephen Gionta bumped Jones in the crease as the puck was coming off of the stick of Josefson and referee Evgeny Romasko waved the goal off due to goaltender interference. With Jones’ streak still intact, the teams skated off for the second intermission.
Late in the third, the Devils would finally break through when the Sharks were whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty at 15:28. With Tomas Hertl serving the bench minor, Adam Henrique became the first player in over two games this year to score on Jones with assists to Damon Severson and Jordin Tootoo.
With the score tied at one and the first point of the season secured for the Devils, the teams went into a five-minute three-on-three overtime for the first time in Devils regular season history. The Devils had performed well in the three-on-three exhibitions in the preseason, but this would be their first real test.
The action in the three-on-three was just as exciting as advertised and the Devils were applying pressure but unable to get through Jones. Then, at 4:48 of the overtime, San Jose’s Brent Burns took a tripping penalty and the Devils were set to go on the 4-on-3 man advantage. After a quick timeout by the Devils, they prepared for a 12 second power play. The Sharks were able to survive those dozen ticks of the clock and the game moved to a shootout.
Coach DeBoer had a record of 16-30 in shootouts with the Devils, including their famous streak of futility in early 2012-13 to the following season.
Things looked alright for the Devils when Henrique scored on the first attempt of the first round, however the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski would also convert in that round. When Josefson missed on the Devils’ attempt in the second round and Burns scored for San Jose, it came down to Mike Cammalleri to keep the Devils alive. He missed the net and the Sharks would move to 4-0-0 while the Devils dropped to 0-3-1.
Next stop for New Jersey is a date on Sunday at 1 PM with the Rangers at the Garden. Although it would be nice for the Devils to have gone in on a high note, as Deb Placey put it on the MSG+ postgame show, at least they are going into the Garden with a point. While it will be a tough game for the Devils to win on Sunday, they have shown that they can stay in games with good teams. This is really the most San Jose had been tested in this short season so far.
If the Devils can catch New York with a bad game, and continue to play how they have been, steadily improving, they could very well come out with two points on Sunday.