1/25/97 -- 3:18 AM


SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - The New Jersey Devils made sure their All-Star goalie Martin Brodeur didn't have to carry a heavy load Friday night against the San Jose Sharks.

Brodeur only had to face 19 shots, a season-low for the Sharks, as the Devils defeated San Jose, 3-1.

``For the most part, we kept them to the outside,'' said Brodeur. ``The team played well in front of me. The Sharks had some good, wide-open chances, but I did what I had to do to make the saves.''

Steve Sullivan scored the game-winning goal at 16:10 of the second period. It came just 49 seconds after the Sharks tied it 1-1.

``That definitely hurt us,'' said San Jose coach Al Sims. ``We worked hard for 1 1/2 periods to get a goal against this team and then they score right away. That deflated us a little bit.''

The Sharks may have been distracted, as they had to contend with both circulating trade rumors and the Devils.

The rumors, involving San Jose and Chicago goalie Ed Belfour, began before the game started.

``They took his (Belfour's) name plate off in Chicago, so it's obvious he's gone from there,'' said San Jose's Tony Granato. ``I've been in this league nine years and have been a part of quite a few rumors. Some of the guys were wondering if this was their last game here. It's hard to play like that.''

The Sharks closed their locker room for 40 minutes and called a press conference to say there was no deal to talk about.

``A lot of guys were talking to each other, trying to keep their heads up,'' Granato said of the closed locker room.

``We do not comment on speculation as a policy,'' Sharks' spokesman Ken Arnold said. ``But due to the unique circumstances with the magnitude of this rumors, we'll say that there is no deal to talk about tonight.''

Sullivan scored his third goal of the season after he picked up a rebound at the top of the crease and slipped it under San Jose goalie Chris Terreri, who was one of those mentioned in the rumors.

``The Sharks bounced me around and in the right direction, and the rebound came right out to me,'' said Sullivan. ``I was just able to tap it in. I just stayed around the crease hoping something would pop up.''

``Sullivan brings something to the game every night,'' said New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire. ``If he gets a little room he can do things.''

Terreri, a former Devil, said he hadn't heard anything about his situation, though he had heard rumors.

``I've been through this so many times, I don't know whether to take it seriously,'' said Terreri. ``The best thing to do is just play the game. If I hear anything, I'll let you.''

Stephen Guolla tied the game for the Sharks with his second goal of the season at 15:21 of the second period.

Jeff Friesen, also the subject of trade rumors, drew the attention of the New Jersey defense, then made a pass across the slot to Guolla, who was left unguarded and had an open net.

``We responded real well to a team that wanted to play rough against us,'' said Brodeur. ``They had some good, wide-open chances and I did what I had to do to make the saves.''

Valeri Zelepukin got the Devils on the scoreboard first with his sixth goal of the season, a power-play goal at 4:45 of the first period.

Zelepukin shot from the left hash mark, after taking a pass from Scott Stevens, and slipped it under Terreri's pads.

``Scoring picked up my confidence,'' said Zelepukin. ``I just shoved it under his pads and saw it was in.''

It was the 33rd time this season New Jersey has scored first in a game, tops in the NHL.

John MacLean added an empty-net goal, his 16th of the season, at 19:17 of the third period.

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