NEWARK–Brent Burns scored two goals while matching a season-high 11 shots on goal in San Jose’s 4-1 win over the Devils on Sunday afternoon.
It was the first game back from their league-mandated bye week for the Devils and it showed.
After failing to convert on an early power play, New Jersey was forced to play most of the first period on the kill, taking four-straight penalties. To their credit, they did not yield a goal off any of the afternoon’s opportunities. Even with the Sharks’ on a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:43, they were unable to solve Cory Schneider, who didn’t feel the rust off a five-game break, but did think the game lacked some rhythm.
“I think it was probably more of the penalties, having to kill an extended five on three,” Schneider said. “It was tough from a rhythm point of view. We survived and we could have turned it around in the second, but obviously not good enough.”
Head coach John Hynes lamented the trail to the box. Even at a perfect penalty kill is hardly the way the team wanted to return to action.
“We found a way to put ourselves in penalty trouble throughout the game,” Hynes said. “They were not good penalties.”
They did manage to respond from the momentous penalty killing, opening the scoring 11:42 into the first period from P.A. Parenteau on their first shot on goal of the game. The goal was the only saving grace to a period in which they were outshot 19-3.
The Sharks refused to get discouraged either following a period in which they dominated yet trailed. Firing from all cylinders yet again, San Jose responded with a three-goal second, with Burns leading the way scoring twice in the opening 7:46 of the period. The goals were part of another strong showing by the front runner for the Norris trophy, awarded to the league’s best defenseman.
“It’s every night, if you watch him every night he’s the best player on the ice,” Thornton said about Burns, who is now just two points behind Connor McDavid for the league lead in points.
Thornton added one of his own 11:22 into the second to increase the lead to 3-1.
Trying to ignite his team before the third, Seth Helgeson fought Michael Haley at 13:15, but it wasn’t enough for the Devils, who struggled to match San Jose’s pace.
Tomas Hertl would add an empty-net goal in a quiet third period to seal up the victory. Sharks’ goaltender Martin Jones made 21-straight saves after allowing a goal on the first shot.
The Devils will go from one of the top teams in the league to the worst team in the NHL, facing the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at home.