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Niemi Set Tone In Game 7 Victory

Sharks Goaltender Made 38 Saves In Series Clinching Win

Friday, 05.13.2011 / 2:04 AM / News
By Jim Sparaco
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Niemi Set Tone In Game 7 Victory
San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) shakes hands with Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) after the Sharks defeated the Red Wings 3-2 in Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal playoff series Thursday, May 12, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Although they insist it wasn’t an area of focus heading into Thursday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, the San Jose Sharks elevated the play of their special teams to skate to an impressive3-2 victory and clinch the second-round series over the Central Division champs and to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the second consecutive year.

The Sharks, who had been shut out on the power play (0 for 10) during the three consecutive losses in the series which forced the decisive Game Seven, tallied a power play goal in the first period to give the Sharks the early lead and to break the scoreless drought. Devin Setoguchi took the feed from Joe Thornton at 12:20 of the first period to score his sixth goal of the playoffs and set the tone for the game while electrifying a sold out HP Pavilion.

“The power play’s taken a lot of heat thus far,” said Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle. “We scored a big power play goal early in the game to get things going and we killed off four huge penalties tonight. We didn’t talk about it necessarily that much, but it came through in our play.”

“Although we don’t talk about it as much, I think special teams is a focus of every series,” added Setoguchi. “The team that can win the special team battles is going to win the series most likely. If you’re winning the power play battle and you’re winning the penalty kill battle you have a good chance at the end of the night that you’re going to win the game. We got a quick power play goal and our penalty kill did a great job and we got the win.”

San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi blocks a Detroit Red Wings shot during the second period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal playoff series Thursday, May 12, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
The Sharks created a multitude of scoring opportunities and quality chances while on the power play to keep the Red Wings back on their heels and more importantly, kept Detroit from taking liberties with the Sharks while skating five-on-five.

Of equal importance, the Sharks were perfect on the penalty kill, successfully killing four Detroit power plays in the game including two big penalty kills in the third period including a slashing penalty against Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell at 14:57.

“The difference tonight is a power play goal and our penalty kill,” added Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “I thought we had a pretty good plan tonight. They beat us with a drop pass a lot in the series so we adjusted a little bit. We felt that if we didn’t allow them any free entries into our zone we’d have a better opportunity of killing it. We did a pretty good job of that. They really didn’t get set that much. The penalty killers came up big.”

In addition to the stellar special teams play of the Sharks was the equally impressive goaltending from Sharks goaltender Anti Niemi who continued to be the Sharks “Most Valuable Player” of the playoffs by making impressive saves with Red Wings players campoed out in front of him. Niemi faced 40 shots on goal on the night including a barrage of shots in the final two minutes of the game to preserve the victory.

“He’s been our best player the entire year,” said Sharks forward Logan Couture. “He’s really stepped up in the playoffs. He had a couple tough games in the first series against the Kings. But he’s stepped up. He made some big saves for us tonight to get the win. I love playing for ‘Nemo’. Everybody in this room loves playing for ‘Nemo.”

The Sharks now advance to the Western Conference Finals against the Northwest Division Champion and Western Conference’s top-seeded Vancouver Canucks. Game 1 of the series will be played Sunday, May 15 at 5 p.m.




1 NSH 62 41 14 7 188 147 89
2 ANA 63 39 17 7 186 176 85
3 STL 61 39 18 4 190 152 82
4 CHI 63 37 21 5 183 150 79
5 WPG 63 31 20 12 174 170 74
6 VAN 61 35 23 3 174 162 73
7 MIN 61 32 22 7 173 160 71
8 LAK 61 29 20 12 164 157 70
9 CGY 62 33 25 4 175 160 70
10 SJS 62 30 24 8 173 177 68
11 COL 62 27 24 11 166 179 65
12 DAL 62 27 25 10 195 207 64
13 ARI 62 20 35 7 137 210 47
14 EDM 62 18 34 10 142 206 46


J. Pavelski 62 31 25 12 56
L. Couture 62 21 32 2 53
J. Thornton 58 12 40 -2 52
B. Burns 62 16 29 -3 45
P. Marleau 62 13 31 -14 44
T. Wingels 55 12 15 -5 27
T. Hertl 62 10 14 -3 24
J. Braun 51 1 19 3 20
M. Vlasic 57 7 11 10 18
M. Karlsson 33 9 7 4 16
A. Niemi 24 16 7 .913 2.62
A. Stalock 5 7 1 .899 2.85
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