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Niemi extends shutout streak to 2 games
Sharks netminder stymies Ovechkin and Caps
2/8/11 - By Mike Lee -

The Sharks continued get timely goals on their lengthy seven-game road trip, converting with a pair of 3rd period goals 132 seconds apart to take a 2-0 decision over the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center. Antti Niemi made 25 saves to earn his 2nd consecutive shutout, out-dueling Capitals netminder Michael Neuvirth in battle of the glove. Logan Couture scored the game winning goal again for San Jose to pace the Sharks.

The win was also the 4th in a row for San Jose, who is looking to pick up the pace as the playoff lineup in the Western Conference begins to take shape. With the victory, the Sharks find themselves in 4th place in the conference, just a single point out of the division lead. San Jose shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the ninth seed in the West is only 4 points back in the standings.

If they continue to play the same fundamentally sound hockey that they’ve exhibited over the last week, they won’t have to worry about looking in the mirror. Part of that will depend on how consistent Niemi can be.

He was john on the spot on Tuesday night. Neuvirth was solid for 52 minutes, but a brief let down was enough to spoil the host Capitals night. Washington’s netminder turned aside 15 shots in the 1st period and it looked like it might be a long night for the visiting Sharks.

Neuvirth robbed Ben Eager seven minutes into the game with a flash of the leather to snag an 18-foot shot from the left side. San Jose had just dodged a bullet when a gloved puck bounced precariously through the Sharks crease.

Neuvirth would start to see a steady stream of pucks come his way during a six minute span, but he handled things.

Washington fell victim to a quick whistle after Niemi appeared to secure a puck with seven minutes remaining in the period. A Washington shot squirted through Niemi’s pads and sat perched in the crease behind the netminder. Both referees lost sight of the puck, whistling the play dead as Nicklas Backstrom tapped I across the goal line.

Jamal Mayers tripped up former Shark Matt Bradley with 4:31 to play in the period. Niemi got a glove on a point blank shot by Backstrom to deny the Capitals best scoring chance during the two-man advantage.

San Jose would go on the power play with 81 seconds left in the period after John Erskine cross checked Joe Thornton in front of the Washington net. San Jose would fail to convert, but they would finish the period by putting 15 shots on Neuvirth.

Dany Heatley just missed on a one-time chance from 5-feet out early in the 2nd period after Thornton sent a pass out to the slot from behind the Capitals net. Neuvirth made a spectacular save, doing the splits to deny Heatley.

Thornton had his own scoring chance with 7 minutes remaining in the period, missing with a shot to the right side even though the left side of the net was wide open.

The golden opportunity-fest continued, swinging to the Capitals favor later in the period, when a juicy rebound found its way to Alexander Ovechkin’s stick just outside the right post. Washington’s captain ripped a shot that was blocked by Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

David Steckel missed on arguably the best chance of the period with 80 seconds left in the period when Niemi poked a partial breakaway chance after Jason Demers coughed up the puck at his own blueline. Steckel picked Demers pocket, then raced in on net before deeking right before cutting to the left post.

The Kyle Wellwood – Logan Couture – Eager line would pepper Neuvirth with a series of shots in tight early in the 3rd period, but they couldn’t anything past the Capitals netminder.

Thornton would miss again with another point blank chance moments later, but the shot was pushed just wide right.

San Jose would finally crack the score sheet on their 35th shot of the game. Couture took a feed from Feed up the left side, before snapping a shot that beat Neuvirth through the five-hole. It was the 24th goal of the season for the Sharks rookie.

Dan Boyle made it 2-0 two minutes later with a shot from the right dot that slipped between Neuvirth and the right post. Heatley setup the score with a feed from behind the Washington net after a strong forecheck kept the puck in the Capitals end of the ice. It was Boyle’s first goal since December 23rd, a stretch of 18 games between tallies.

Niemi went to work in the final five minutes, starting with a shoulder save on Alexander Semin, who seemed to have the Sharks netminder dead to rights. Semin snapped an 18-foot shot from the left side that Niemi stopped by leaning to his right to get his torso in front of the would be goal.

Niklas Wallin would take a holding penalty at 17:09 to give the Capitals a breath of life.

Washington would pull Neuvirth to add an extra attacker. San Jose would misfire on two long range empty-net chances, but San Jose would kill off the Wallin penalty.

The Capitals would fail to get a puck past Niemi, but Ovechkin would take one last shot, albeit as a hit from behind on Heatley at the buzzer. Nothing would come from the pointless tap, except for the fact that the two teams will square off again in eleven days on the west coast.



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
SJ 0 0 2 2
WAS 0 0 0 0
1st period - None.
2nd period - None.
3rd period - 1, SJ, Couture 24 (Eager, Huskins), 11:55. 2, SJ, Boyle6 (Heatley, Setoguchi), 14:07.
Penalties
1st period - Mayers, SJ (tripping), 15:29; Erskine, WAS (cross checking), 18:39.
2nd period - None.
3rd period - Wallin, SJ (holding), 17:09.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
SJ - Niemi 25 25
WAS - Neuvirth 36 34
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 15 12 9 36
WAS 9 4 12 25
Power Play Conversion
SJ 0 of 1
WAS 0 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Logan Couture
Michael Neuvirth
Antti Niemi
Attendence
18,398
Officials
Referees: McCauley, Walkom. Linesmen: Barton, Murray.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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