San Jose Sharks Shutout Predators Behind Antti Niemi


Mar 12, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) blocks a Nashville Predators shot during the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators squared off, it was Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne who stole all the headlines with 42 saves in a 5-1 victory. This time out, it was Antti Niemi’s turn to showcase his skills against his fellow countryman.

Niemi stopped all 35 Nashville shots Thursday night in picking up his fifth shutout of the season as the Sharks defeated the Predators 2-0 at SAP Center. It was the second consecutive victory for San Jose and their fourth in their last five games as they are making a push for the playoffs.

The centerpiece of success for the Sharks recently has been the stellar play of Niemi who is playing his best hockey of the season at just the right time. Niemi has stopped 74 of 75 shots the past two games in carrying his teammates to victory.

The Sharks drew first blood for the seventh consecutive game when Tomas Hertl deposited a rebound off a Justin Braun shot from the point for his 11th goal of the season. The goal came on San Jose’s fourth power play opportunity of the night, and it was a huge goal from the second power play unit. As Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area noted, that was the first power play goal from the second unit since Jan. 10, a span of  26 games.

It was a big bounce back goal from Hertl who had a goal disallowed in the first period after the referee ruled that there was incidental contact between Hertl and Rinne.

In the third period, Niemi and the Sharks defense stood tall. The Predators outshot the Sharks 35-21 on the night, but Niemi was there to thwart every attempt. Tommy Wingels would add an empty-net, power-play goal to seal the victory with 59 seconds remaining.

While it might not be the best hockey the Sharks have played all season, they are still getting results which is the most important thing at this juncture in the season. It’s a good thing Doug Wilson didn’t trade away Niemi at the deadline because the Sharks would have no chance of making the playoffs without him.

San Jose is still hanging on the fringe of the playoff race, three points out of the final playoff spot and four points behind the Vancouver Canucks for second in the Pacific Division.

The Sharks are still keeping things interesting with 14 games remaining, due in large part to the big shoulders of Niemi, and if he keeps it going, there’s no reason why they can’t sneak into the mix at the finish.

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