NEWARK, N.J. -- Sometimes coaches send players a message by sitting them out.

But Sunday afternoon, it was rookie Matt Nieto letting Sharks coach Todd McLellan know that he prefers to play by scoring the game-winner in a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils after sitting out Friday in Buffalo.

"You know, whenever you get a chance to be in the lineup, you have to have a positive impact," Nieto said. "That's something I try to do whenever I'm in."

Nieto wasn't the only rookie to have that positive impact as backup netminder Alex Stalock improved his record to 10-4 this season with 21 saves, including four in 30 seconds shortly before Nieto broke a 2-2 deadlock at 6:20 of the third period.

Logan Couture, Raffi Torres and Patrick Marleau also scored on New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider, while Adam Henrique and Patrick Elias tallied for the Devils.

Torres also sat out Friday's loss to the Sabres, but neither he nor Nieto were benched for the usual reasons. McLellan said he didn't want to tax Torres with three games in four nights after missing 59 games because of a knee injury. With Nieto, the coach said it was a case of getting other players into a game after the Olympic break.

"It's nice to see he handled it properly," said McLellan, who slotted Nieto onto his top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski while dropping Brent Burns lower in the depth chart alongside James Sheppard and Marty Havlat.

Burns hasn't scored a goal in 19 games, and McLellan said, "just like everybody else, we've got to hold him accountable. Brent will work his way back, but right now we like what we saw from those three."

After a fast-paced but scoreless first period, both teams found their scoring touch in the second.

The Sharks got on the board first at 3:26 when Couture popped in the rebound of a shot by Jason Demers that had been deflected by Patrick Marleau. That lead only lasted 77 seconds after former Shark Steve Bernier sent a cross-crease pass to Henrique, who had a wide open net in front of him.

The Devils took their only lead at 14:22 when Elias deflected a shot past Stalock. But 92 seconds after that, Torres finished off a perfect give-and-go with Joe Pavelski on an odd-man rush.

"We were pretty spread out so we had enough time to think through in our heads what was happening," Pavelski said. "The other part is how the 'd' was playing it. He found himself a little farther back than he wanted to be."

Between periods, McLellan and the coaching staff let players know it had been 11 games since the Sharks outscored an opponent in the third period, and they responded accordingly.

First Stalock came up big when Elias skated in all alone after deking out a Sharks defender. A half-minute later, Thornton and Pavelski set Nieto up for a shot that went top shelf for his seventh goal of the season.

"In the pre-scout, we were talking about the need to get pucks high on this guy so I shot it high," Nieto said, "and luckily it went by him."

The Sharks still had to kill off two penalties to preserve the lead before Marleau jumped on a loose puck high in the Devils zone and snapped off a 25-foot shot that iced the game for San Jose.

  • The game marked the first time the Sharks faced longtime teammate Ryane Clowe since the April 2 trade that sent him to the New York Rangers before he signed a five-year, $24.25 million contract with New Jersey.

    "Can't wait to get out there against all of them and make a few runs at them," said Clowe, who was credited with four hits -- all in the first period.

    "If there's one guy you know is going to play hard against you when he gets back, it's him. That's his game," said Demers, who was flattened by Clowe. "But it's more my fault. I kind of left myself open."

    Tuesday's game

    Carolina (26-26-9) at Sharks (39-17-6), 7:30 p.m., CSNCA

    ONLINe extras

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