One For The Road (Devils in These Details; 10.20.17)

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akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief


NEWARK, N.J. — Unlike their namesake, the San Jose Sharks, in recent years, seem to do their best work when placed outside of the Shark Tank. It was a longer wait than usual to prove that once again, but San Jose felt at home over 3,000 miles away to start its travels in 2017-18.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored a goal each while Martin Jones made 28 saves in recording his first shutout of the season as the Sharks, playing in their first road game after starting the season with five consecutive games at home, defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-0 on Friday night.

In the last four full seasons, the Sharks posted a 91-59-14 record away from the SAP Center, the second-most wins on the road in the league in that span, only behind the New York Rangers’ 99 wins away from Madison Square Garden. Along with an uneven start to this season, one which saw it go 2-3 in its opening home stand while allowing more than three goals per contest, it was no wonder San Jose was looking forward to packing the bags and heading on the road for the first time this season.

“I think our group was ready to get on the road,” said Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer, who led his opponent tonight, the Devils, to the Stanley Cup Final back in 2012. “We’ve played five games at home and, traditionally, we’ve been a good road team. It was nice to get the group out on the road. We’ve got some new players. Get to know each other. Spend some time together.”

One of those new players is rookie defenseman Tim Heed, and his shot-pass to Melker Karlsson from the point was tipped just wide of the Devils’ goal, though that helped to set up Karlsson’s goal a few seconds later off of a pass from behind the net by Tomas Hertl at 14:11 of the first.

The goal from the Sharks acted as a catalyst for the speedy Devils to respond, but Jones was up to the task. He stoned Drew Stafford from the slot on a slap shot that was set up by a pass from Marcus Johansson, who himself had a point-blank slap shot from in front stopped by Jones earlier in the first period. Just a few seconds after Jones’ save on Stafford, Devils checking line forward Blake Coleman followed with a backhand that went off of the far post to Jones’ stick side.

The end of the period came at a good time for the Sharks, who were on their heels to end the first. They came out the more aggressive of the teams in the second and, at 5:49, Pavelski capitalized on one of his typical deflections in front of the goal crease, this time off of a slap shot from the point by defenseman Justin Braun for his second goal of the season.

Pavelski later revealed that one of his uncles, Roger, had passed away the day before. While playing with a heavy heart, Pavelski pointed out after the game that the goal he scored usually is one that, in his opinion, would not go in under normal circumstances.

“I was a little surprised when it went in,” said Pavelski, who has led the Sharks in goals scored in five of the last six seasons. “I was real tight to the goalie at the time. A lot of times, they’ll be able to shut those down. Actually, one of my uncles passed yesterday, and that was the one thing from the family that they said. ‘Get a goal for that.’ I don’t think that goal should have went in, so I’m sure [Roger] had a little bit to do with it.”

With 1:50 remaining in the second, Donskoi scored off of a rebound of his own shot past goalkeeper Keith Kinkaid to give San Jose a 3-0 lead.

Kinkaid was making his second start of the season as he replacied No. 1 goalkeeper Cory Schneider, who was placed on injured reserve earlier on Friday due to a lower body injury. After 13 shots on goal in the first period, New Jersey only managed 15 shots in the final two periods combined, amassing just six on Jones’ goal in the second.

New Jersey sees its win streak end at three games, but still sits on top of the Metropolitan Division with 12 points. The Devils now have a week off before playing its next game, also at home, against the Ottawa Senators next Friday.

San Jose continues its first road trip of the season in the New York Metropolitan area, taking on the New York Islanders on Saturday night before playing the Rangers on Monday.

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