BROOKLYN – In his first career NHL game, goaltender Aaron Dell is a winner. And he has the captain to thank for it.
The 27-year-old journeyman netminder made 21 saves in a 3-2 Sharks win over the Islanders. The game-winning goal came from Joe Pavelski with just 2:11 to go, when he redirected in a Thornton feed from the slot.
The defending Western Conference champions have won three of their first four games of the season (3-1-0). They are 14-4-4 in their last 22 games against the Islanders, although they lost both games of the season series last year.
New York had a prime chance to tie the game late, when Pavelski accidentally flipped the puck over the glass for a delay of game minor, but the Isles registered just one harmless shot on goal.
The Sharks jumped on the Islanders in the first period. The fourth line, featuring Micheal Haley playing in his first game of the season, generated a goal when Melker Karlsson finished off a pass from behind the net by Tommy Wingels at 5:36. Haley got the secondary assist.
San Jose held the Islanders to just four shots on goal on Dell, who was forced to make just one difficult save on an Anders Lee backhand. New York didn’t register a shot on goal for the final 12:47 of the frame.
New York picked it up in the second, though, getting the tying goal from Anthony Beauvillier midway through regulation. The Islanders rookie followed up his backhand towards the net, and it bounced off of Justin Braun before fluttering behind Dell, who couldn’t snag it in time.
Lee put New York ahead, 2-1, getting to the slot and holding off Paul Martin while flicking through a Jason Chimera pass at 11:49.
The Sharks responded before the break when Thornton found Tomas Hertl in front of the net. The puck deflected off of Hertl’s right leg and past Jaroslav Halak on what was Hertl’s first goal of the season and Thornton’s first primary assist at 18:03.
Next up for the Sharks is a Stanley Cup Final rematch with the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday. San Jose is 2-1 on its current five-game road trip.
The Sharks were 0-for-1 on the power play, while New York was 0-for-2.
San Jose had both scored and surrendered one power play goal in each of its first three games.
If he can keep the job, Dell will likely see plenty of action after Tuesday, as the Sharks have 15 more back-to-backs this season. Their next is on Nov. 25-26 with a pair of games at home.
Halak took the loss, allowing three goals on 27 shots. He’s 6-6-0 in his career against San Jose.
Haley was playing in his first game of the season in place of Matt Nieto, who was a healthy scratch. He left briefly in the second period after an awkward collision with Dennis Seidenberg, but quickly returned.
Joel Ward played in his 600th career NHL game, while Brent Burns upped his scoring streak to four games with an assist on Hertl’s goal.
After their battle with Pittsburgh, the Sharks conclude their road trip in Detroit on Saturday. They host the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, Oct. 25.