Niemi Just Says “No”- Antti Niemi made 27 saves in turning in his second straight shut out in just over 24 hours. With Niemi’s gem the San Jose Sharks blanked Western Conference rival Detroit Red Wings 2-0 before another full house at the Shark Tank. Clutch goals by Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns supported Niemi’s efforts as the Sharks won their third straight game for their longest streak since January. The Sharks were solid defensively again Thursday Night as the Wings despite the number of scoring chances they would get were not able to convert most opportunities into second chances. This was due in part to the Sharks tying up both shooting and passing lanes as they did against Anaheim just one evening earlier. Niemi also had help from his team mates as Marc-Edoward Vlasic saved one shot on goal when Niemi was out of position in the final period. Burns also helped out Niemi (just a moment before he scored a goal himself) as he was able to clear away a puck that rebounded in front of the Sharks netminder who was then unable to locate it.
With the win the Sharks improve their home mark to 10-1-4, and their overall mark to 16-11-6. The Sharks now sit in seventh place in the Western Conference Standings with 38 points, trailing Detroit by only one point and the defending champion Los Angeles Kings by two points. The Sharks have nine of their remaining 15 games at the Shark Tank. If the Sharks are to make a playoff appearance and maybe even a decent run once they get there, they will need to be able to put away as many games as they can before the seasons winds down on April 27th.
Tight Defense and Goal Tending Rule The Night- Both Niemi and his counterpart in Detroit’s Jimmy Howard would engage in a what turned out to be a pitchers duel as neither goalie would give ground early or often. Just under four minutes into the game Howard would make a strong save on a shot from the point by Patrick Marleau. Howard however was not able to hold onto to the hot puck, but still managed to swat it away just before Ryane Clowe could get to it in front of the Red Wings goal crease. Moments later Howard again would deny the Sharks as he was able to stop a blistering slap shot from Matt Irwin. Niemi meanwhile would see his fair share of traffic coming over to the Sharks defensive zone, and was ready for it. Niemi made seven rather routine saves thanks to relentless defensive pressure from team teal.
With just over a minute left in the period TJ Galiardi chased down a puck behind the Wings’ goal before getting a feed pass over to Pavelski. Once Pavelski has the puck in his possession he was able to wrap it around the net and tried and shoot it in from the right side of the goal. Pavelski’s attempt may have gone errant, except for the puck deflected off the skate of Niklas Kronwall to get past Howard and into the net with 1:01 left in the opening period. The Wings would outshoot the Sharks 7-6 for the period.
Surviving Red Wings Surge- The second period saw the Red Wings puck up their play as they would come much harder at the Sharks defense and Niemi. The Wings would build up a 7-2 shot on goal advantage during the period as the team teal defense had to find a way to bend a little without breaking completely. With just under 13 1/2 minutes into the middle period, Niemi made one of his better saves of the evening as he stopped a Jordin Tootoo stuff in attempt after saving a slap shot from Gustav Nyquist. The Sharks would come on later in the period and start to challenge Howard once again. One of Howard’s better saves of the period came off another blistering laser, this time from Andrew Desjardins. Later Howard would also deny Patrick Marleau on a Sharks’ odd man rush. Team teal again had answers for the Red Wings by matching their intensity and keeping one step ahead of them.
Burns At The Right Place Twice- Burns in the third period was involved in two plays that may very well have been the deciding factors in the final outcome of the game. With the Red Wings creating havoc around the Sharks defensive zone early in the period Niemi was able to make a save on a puck thrown towards the net. However as the puck glanced off of Niemi, it dropped in front of him and the team teal netminder seemed unaware the rubber biscuit was in front of him. Burns however was the first man to the puck and was able to clear it away. Seconds later Burns again was the right place, right time as the Red Wings deep in their zone turned over the puck. Brian Lashoff’s pass attempt hit the stick of Thornton who intercepted the pass attempt. Thornton charging towards Howard fed the trailing Burns with the puck. Burns in return drilled a wrist shot that beat Howard top shelf to give the Sharks a two goal lead.
The rest of the evening belonged to Niemi and the Sharks defense as they would frustrate the Red Wings all evening long. The Sharks had a chance at a third goal late when Desjardins had an exposed side of the net open. However his scoop in attempt hit the side of the net before a sea of humanity got in the way. Niemi with the shutout on back to back evenings became the Sharks first goalie in the 22 year history of the franchise to accomplish this feat. It was an all out team effort as the Sharks were able to pull out a grinder of a game and turn it into a victory over a perennial foe. In a post game interview with the AP, Niemi stated “I felt good after last night, I thought I was able to be real patient and wait for the pucks and then react. I wasn’t cheating or expecting anything else. I was just reading the play.” **
Shark Bytes- The 3 Stars of the Game: 3) Marc-Edouard Vlasic; 2) Joe Pavelski; 1) Antti Niemi. This was the first game in the 22 year history of the Sharks that the opponent didn’t commit at least one penalty. The Sharks only had one penalty in the game to Galiari for hooking with 9:16 remaining in the game. The Sharks have in their three game winning streak have outscored their opponents 11-3. The Sharks were outshot by the Red Wings for the game 27-24.
Sharks Next Game- Saturday Night at 7:30pm PDT against the Phoenix Coyotes. This also marks the 2nd annual “Tweet-up” where many Sharks fans on Twitter get to meet, greet and follow fellow Sharks fans everywhere. The tweet up is at 6:15pm PDT by the Sharks Foundation kiosk nearest to section 120 in the Shark Tank. The game will be carried on CSN California as well as the Sharks Radio Network (98.5FM San Jose, 102.1FM San Francisco).
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