NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Two days after being a healthy scratch against Buffalo, Matt Nieto had the perfect response for San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan.
Nieto returned to the lineup and scored the game-winning goal at 6:20 of the third period and the Sharks defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Sunday.
"Whenever you get a chance to be in the lineup, you have to have a positive impact and that's something I try to do whenever I am in," Nieto said.
Nieto not only returned to the lineup, he replaced Brent Burns on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. It worked out just fine, with Nieto also getting a great chance in the first period, breaking in from the left boards.
"It's so easy playing with those guys," said Nieto, who now has seven goals in 48 games and also played a key role as the Sharks killed off all four Devils' power plays. "I just have to retrieve pucks for them, and when I get it to them, go to the net and get open."
The winner came on a counterattack after goaltender Alex Stalock made five of his 21 saves, including a two-on-none save against Patrik Elias.
Thornton made a pass from the left boards to Pavelski in the middle of the ice. He found Nieto coming down the right side and the forward ripped a shot into the top corner of the net.
"I had a couple of chances in the first period and wasn't able to elevate the puck," Nieto said. "We knew in the pre-scout that we needed to get pucks high on this guy so I shot it high, and luckily it went by."
McLellan said he was not sending Nieto a message by sitting him the previous game. He just wanted to get some other players in the lineup. The coach admitted, he got the message, if Nieto was sending him one.
"We have to listen, too," he said. "He played well."
Logan Couture and Raffi Torres also scored and U.S. Olympian Joe Pavelski had the primary assists on the tying and winning goals as the Sharks won for the fifth time in six games. They were 2-1 on the road trip after the Olympics.
Patrick Marleau iced the game with a breakaway goal with 2:25 to play, his 25th of the season.
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