Antti Up- Sharks goal Antti Niemi made two Sharks first period goals stand up as Team Teal edged out the New Jersey Devils 2-1 before another full house at the Shark Tank. With help from the Sharks playing a strong defensive game Niemi was able to stop almost all of the hot rubber he saw Saturday night. Scott Hannan and Tyler Kennedy scored for the Sharks in the first period where Team Teal made one of their best defensive showings of the season allowing the Devils only three shots on goal. The win for the Sharks gives them a 2-0-0 mark in this five game homestand as they will get three days off before facing three of the west’s toughest teams staring Wednesday with three games in four days at the Shark Tank. Niemi’s counterpart this evening with NHL veteran netminder Martin Brodeur who after a rough first period all but stood on his head to keep the Devils in the game as he would make 28 saves on the evening. Patrik Elias’ power play goal in the third period was the only blemish on Niemi’s evening though it also made the game a little more interesting than the Sharks would have wanted.
The First Period Situation- The Sharks would come out of the gates rolling their lines well and giving Brodeur several good looks on the net throughout the period. The Sharks would open up the scoring just 4:25 into the contest when Brent Burns was able to win a battle for a loose puck behind the New Jersey goal. Burns managed to chase down a Jason Demers shot on goal that Brodeur was able to deflect away. Burns got the puck over to Sharks team Captain Joe Thornton who in turn fed a cross ice pass to a wide open Hannan. Once in receipt of the puck Hannan blasted the puck so hard that it hit the back of the net and quickly bounced out. It took a few seconds for everyone on the ice to realize that the puck had actually gone into the net and beaten Brodeur. As a matter of fact Brodeur never even saw the puck and lost track of it. The red light behind the Devils net did not go on right away either but eventually did once the ruling on the ice determined that Hannan had in fact scored. The Sharks continued to pressure the New Jersey defensive zone for much of the opening period forcing Brodeur to do what he could to keep the game from getting out of hand for the Devils. Brodeur would deny shots on goal from Tomas Hertl, Justin Braun and Mike Brown. Later in the period the Sharks would increase their lead to two goals when Kennedy took a perfect behind the net feed pass from Martin Havlat and drilled a wrister that cleanly beat Brodeur. Demers was able to set the table for Kennedy’s goal by winning another battle for the puck along the boards. Demers was able to get a pass over to Havlat behind the Devils goal as Kennedy set himself up in the perfect spot to receive a feed pass.
Jersey Sure Goaltending- In the middle period and even on into the final frame both Niemi and Brodeur were nails. The Sharks entered the second period continuing to pressure the Devils in their defensive zone. Brodeur was challenged both early and often but was the ultimate gate keeper as again the Sharks would come away frustrated in getting no rubber into the net. Early shots on goal from Dan Boyle, Burns and Demers would get turned away. Midway through the second period Brodeur made the game’s best save as he denied Logan Couture from virtually point-blank range. Couture had just receive a feed pass from Tommy Wingles and was all alone and about 10 feet away from the New Jersey net. Couture launched a hard wrister that Brodeur snagged out of their air in almost routine fashion. Niemi meanwhile started to see more hard rubber come his way as well. Niemi would turn away a point-blank tip in attempt by Dainius Zubrus off a hard pass from veteran Jaromir Jagr nearly four minutes into the period. Later in the period Niemi would turn away a coast to coast scoring attempt by Michael Ryder. The Sharks would find themselves outshooting the Devils 21-10 after two periods but just could not seem to find that insurance goal that would give them a little more breathing room.
Heck of a Finish- The Sharks in the final period saw the Devils come out of the gates with a little more speed and fire which meant the defense had to be at it’s best as did Niemi. As the period began both teams managed quick shots on goal as Brodeur was able to turn away Boyle’s early blast before Niemi blocked a stuff in attempt from the Devils’ Damien Brunner. Just over six minutes into the final period former Shark Steve Bernier was able to draw Demers into a hooking penalty that gave the Devils a power play. During the power play Niemi would make a key save on another Ryder shot on goal. The Sharks would just miss completing the penalty kill when Elias would drill home his fourth goal of the season with just a second left on the New Jersey man advantage. Team Teal would have an opportunity to get that goal back less than a minute later however Brodeur would smother a hard shot on goal by Wingles. The Sharks in the final moments of the game would get a stiff challenge from the Devils who were able to hold the puck in the Sharks zone for a good deal of time. The Sharks defense however stepped it up and would yield very few if any more good scoring chances for the Devils. Niemi meanwhile did the rest as he was able to hold of the Devils late including a final sharp angle shot on goal from Zajac.
A Busy Thanksgiving Week Ahead- The Sharks with the win can rest up a little easier and will need to. The next three home games are Wednesday Night versus the Los Angeles Kings, Friday afternoon versus the St Louis Blues, and next Saturday night versus the arch rival Anaheim Ducks. Starting this Wednesdays (sens Chicago) the Sharks will be facing the murder’s row of the Western Conference. This will be a tough undertaking for the Sharks who are taking on three teams that almost assuredly will be all still playing in the late spring. The Sharks will need to be on their game both physically and mentally as this will be a demanding four days which lie ahead. If the Sharks are able to take at least two of those three games they should be fine however don’t want to leave the rink with any unfinished business left behind. A tall order lies ahead however if the Sharks fill it they will be getting a ton of confidence in exchange that could carry them a long way. The Sharks will also need to decide which game Alex Stalock starts in goal as asking Niemi to netmind in all three games could be a bit much to ask of him.
Twitter Quote- Burns calling Brodeur a legend of the game: “I wanted to get one on him… Hands of stone.” from @SanJoseSharks
Next Sharks Game- Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings Wednesday Night (November 27th) 7:30pm PT at the Shark Tank.
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