Goaltender Antti Niemi could change that thinking with a few
efforts this spring like the one he authored Sunday afternoon at
Madison Square Garden.
Niemi made 41 saves, including 20 in the first period, to lead the
Sharks to a 1-0 win over the New York Rangers.
"The goaltender stood in there and rewarded our team," Sharks coach
Todd McLellan said after San Jose improved to 45-17-7 this season.
Center Logan Couture's short-handed goal in the first period was all
San Jose needed as the Sharks swept the season series from New York
The Sharks have won six in a row and nine of their past 11 games.
"We weren't at our best, but we found a way to win a game on the
road," McLellan said.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves for the Rangers, who have
lost three of their past four games and fallen to eighth in the
New York has 13 games remaining this season.
"We definitely understand how important every point is right now,"
Lundqvist said. "We go out there and play a really strong game
against one of the best teams in the league, but it's hard to be
positive about things when you don't win.
"Right now, it's about points. It's not about playing great against
good teams, it's about finding ways to win and we didn't. It's
disappointing, but we have to regroup because there's a lot of
hockey left here. We have to get ready for the next one and we need
two points in the next game."
Despite being outshot 20-11 in the first period, San Jose went into
intermission with a 1-0 lead on Couture's short-handed goal at
11:48. After a New York turnover in the San Jose defensive end,
Couture broke in on Lundqvist and lifted a shot that beat the
Rangers goaltender high for his 19th goal of the season.
"This loss is painful in so many ways," Lundqvist said. "We had so
many open nets, so many chances to get back into this game. It's
extremely painful and when you look at their goal — on our power
play and it's the only goal — it just adds to the frustration."
While New York finished with a distinct 41-29 advantage in shots on
goal, Couture's goal was all San Jose needed as Niemi won his 34th
game of the season.
The San Jose goaltender benefited from his teammates, who blocked 21
shots, and the Toronto war room, which disallowed an apparent
second-period goal off the stick of New York left winger Carl
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Hagelin whipped a shot along the goal line that Niemi appeared to
stop, but a replay showed the puck might have crossed the line. The
replay was not conclusive to overturn the ruling on the ice and the
goal was disallowed to the consternation of the New York fans.
"I wrapped it and kind of just kept going to the corner," Hagelin
said. "But (New York left winger Benoit Pouliot), he was in the
crease and he saw the puck was in. It was pretty obvious on the
video review, too, that the puck was in, but in all fairness, the
refs couldn't see the puck.
"If the ref would have been closer right away, he would have been
able to see the puck, but he was a little bit behind (Niemi). It was
New York pressed in the third period with 14 shots but was not able
to solve Niemi.
"He was unbelievable," San Jose center Joe Thornton said of Niemi.
"Some of the stops he made were incredible. That may be his best
game all year. Definitely a strong game for us."
Both penalty kills were effective. New York was 0-for-3 with the
man-advantage and San Jose was unable to score on its only power
NOTES: Sunday afternoon's matchup was the first since San Jose's 9-2
win on Oct. 8 at the SAP Center. In that game, New York LW Rick Nash
was concussed by an elbow from San Jose D Brad Stuart. The
concussion sidelined Nash for 17 games. Nash had five shots on goal
and attempted seven in Sunday's game. "I think any time you lose,
you always think you can get more," Nash said. "We couldn't get
enough Grade A chances." ... San Jose entered the game with a 20-6-3
record against the Eastern Conference this season. By comparison,
the Rangers are 25-17-4 against the East and 11-11-0 against the
West. ... The game was only the 31st between the two franchises. ...
New York scratched D Raphael Diaz and D Justin Falk, RW Derek
Dorsett and C Ryan Haggerty. Haggerty, a free agent from RPI, agreed
to terms with New York on Wednesday. ... San Jose scratched D Matt
Tennyson, LW Raffi Torres and RW Mike Brown. ... Even with the loss,
the Rangers have an all-time record of 20-8-3-0 against San Jose in
31 regular-season games. ... San Jose LW Patrick Marleau and New
York D Ryan McDonagh tied for the game high in shots on goal with
six apiece. ... New York D Dan Girardi logged a game-high 26:20 of
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