Sharangovich, Mercer help Devils outlast Sharks for third straight win

NEWARK, N.J. — Yegor Sharangovich and Dawson Mercer each scored in the second period and the New Jersey Devils held on for their third straight win, 2-1 against the San Jose Sharks at Prudential Center on Saturday.

“We want to build our game all around our speed,” Mercer said. “That’s to our advantage … flying around out there and creating those opportunities. We never got away from our game and I think that paid off in the end.”

Mackenzie Blackwood made 21 saves for the Devils (3-2-0), who had not won three consecutive games since Dec. 29, 2021-Jan. 2, 2022. Blackwood has allowed four goals on 59 shots in three wins since allowing four goals on 24 shots in a 5-2 loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 13.

With Sharks goalie Kaapo Kahkonen pulled for the extra attacker, San Jose’s Erik Karlsson hit the post with 2:00 remaining in the third period and Blackwood denied Timo Meier on a slap shot with 12 seconds to play in regulation.

“He’s made the big saves when we needed them and, again tonight, those last couple of minutes,” New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said. “He found some pucks through traffic that made the difference to allow us to win that game.”

Kevin Labanc scored for the Sharks (1-6-0), who finish a four-game road trip at the Flyers on Sunday. Kahkonen made 34 saves.

“They had a bit of a push in the second and we kind of weathered the storm,” Kahkonen said. “We had a good effort there at the end, but just couldn’t get one.”

Sharangovich gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead at 13:21 of the second period. He connected off a turnover along the boards by San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, skated into the slot, deked to his forehand and scored on a backhand.

“What a great goal,” Ruff said. “You watch the goal, you watch the move. That’s what you want to see when you get that opportunity. They had a big turnover, and we took advantage of it.”

Video: SJS@NJD: Sharangovich steals puck to take it home

Mercer gave the Devils a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal at 15:43. Nico Hischier began the play behind the net with a pass to Mercer at the right post, and Mercer scored on his own rebound.

“I found that open ice in the middle and Nico’s a playmaker,” Mercer said. “He found me below the goal line and lucky enough I got the rebound chance come back to me and had another shot at it. It was a great feeling.”

Ruff said he likes what he sees in Mercer’s second NHL season. The 20-year-old forward has three points (two goals, one assist) in five games this season after he had 42 points (17 goals, 25 assists) in 82 games as a rookie in 2021-22.

“I think his wall play, his battles around the net, behind the net, have increased and he’s creating on his own,” Ruff said. “On his goal, he stayed with it, found a tight hole in front of the net. It was a great play for him to find his own rebound; that’s the level we need to be at.”

Video: SJS@NJD: Mercer nets PPG on second try

Labanc scored 32 seconds later to make it 2-1 at 16:15. He skated down the left wing on a 2-on-1 break and scored on a wrist shot from the left circle.

“We kind of gave up two points,” Labanc said. “We had a good 15 [minutes] and then the second, third period, kind of let the game go. We didn’t create as many chances as we would like, but this game’s behind us. We’ve got to get ready for Philadelphia and make sure everybody’s ready; we can end this road trip on a pretty good note.”

Jesper Bratt had an assist and has eight points (all assists) in five games to tie Will Butcher (eight assists in 2017-18) for the most by a Devils player through the team’s first five games of a season.

“It’s up to us in the room to hold each other accountable,” Bratt said. “I mean, we have a new day tomorrow and then we’re going to take the good stuff from this game and tomorrow’s a new day. We’ve got to start over.”

NOTES: The Sharks were 2-for-3 on the penalty kill and are 22-for-23 this season. … Labanc, born in Brooklyn, New York, played his minor hockey with the New Jersey Rockets at Prudential Center before joining USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. “It’s a pretty special building to score a goal for me,” Labanc said. …. Hischier had an apparent shorthanded goal off a 2-on-1 with Ondrej Palat at 11:17 of the second period overturned when a video replay determined the Devils captain used a distinct kicking motion to direct the puck into the net.

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