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Niemi shutsout former team
Jason Demers bags games lone goal
11/23/11 - By Mike Lee -

Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi continued his dominance over his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks, on Wednesday night and it couldn't have been more timely. The Blackhawks were motivated to get back on track after losing 9-2 to the Edmonton Oilers last weekend. Only one problem. They ran into an equally motivated Niemi, who made 34 saves to earn his first shutout of the season. Jason Demers provided San Jose with the only goal they would need to help propel the Sharks to their 4th straight win.

"Our goaltender was the primary reason for it [the win]," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "But our penalty kill which has given us some headaches was strong; strong enough to get us through. Our power play wasn't special but it got us a goal. It was a special teams battle and at the end of the night it's all you can hope for when you aren't playing that well."

The win was also the Sharks 4th straight against quality opponents. Demers goal was the only puck that crossed either goal line in a game that could have been a goal fest, had it not been for Niemi's stellar play.

Chicago spent Sunday and Monday in Las Vegas on a team bonding trip, which may have been harder to enjoy after the spanking they received at the hands of the Oilers. One big issue for the Blackhawks has been their penalty kill, which ranks last in the NHL.

That penalty kill buckle down on three of four chances, but San Jose they fell short after Dave Bolland was sent off for hooking late in the 2nd period. Demers beat Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford with a long range shot that skipped into the Chicago net with less than three minutes to play in the frame. That one slip up would cost Chicago.

"We want a couple points from this game, but if we lose games like this we can take those; but nothing like how we lost in Edmonton and Calgary," said Blackhawks defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson.

It was a tough way to lose, but also give credit to the Sharks, who played the defensive game they needed to and scored a clutch goal when they needed it.

It was Demers first goal of the season, but pre-game forecaster's would have been bullish on the oung defenseman who has 7 points in 8 career games against the Blackhawks. The goal was his 3rd career tally against Chicago.

"I don't know what it is," said the Sharks defenseman. "The puck seems to bounce for me against these guys. I wish I could play against them fifty times a year. But it's always a team that we like to use the measuring stick against. I always like to take that challenge."

The Niemi show got off to a quick start after Chicago tried to jump the Sharks early. The Blackhawks outshot the Sharks in all three periods, but the 1st period was the most contentious. Chicago was aided by a pair of penalties to Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle.

Boyle had a tough evening, drawing three minor infractions. With Chicago already pressing a tripping penalty on Daniel Carcillo 7:25 into the game setup the Blackhawks first power play. Boyle would trip on a play later in the period, which led to a breakaway that Niemi was forced to diffuse. Bole finished that frame by boarding winger Bryan Bickell.

San Jose killed both of Boyle's penalties due in part to Niemi's strong play. He made big saves on quality chances in tight, and got a little help from his post, which denied a Duncan Keith shot midway through the period.

"He's the reason we got two points tonight," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton. "He played great. For whatever reason, he likes playing against his old team. A couple of his saves were spectacular."

A pair of breakaways by the Blackhawks made the home crowd uneasy in that 1st period, but Niemi was up to the task.

"We had a good start," said Ryane Clowe. "The first five minutes were strong and then the third was probably our smartest period. We kept pucks going North-South and we didn't turn a lot over. The second period was a bit sloppy obviously. But that's why Niemi is paid the big bucks. He played great tonight. He was obviously our first star and the reason we won tonight."


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1 2 3 T
CHI 0 0 0 0
SJ 0 1 0 1
1st period - None.
2nd period - 1, SJ, Demers 1 (Clowe, Couture), 17:08, (pp).
3rd period - None.
1st period - Boyle, SJ (tripping), 7:25; Boyle, SJ (boarding), 13:12.
2nd period - Stalberg, CHI (interference), 1:08; Boyle, SJ (delay of game - puck over glass), 10:10; Bolland, CHI (hooking), 17:04; Kane, CHI (hooking), 18:52.
3rd period - Montador, CHI (cross checking), 12:48; Pavelski, SJ (goaltender interference), 13:54.
Shots Saves
CHI - Crawford 21 20
SJ - Niemi 34 34
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
CHI 10 13 11 34
SJ 5 6 10 21
Power Play Conversion
CHI 0 of 4
SJ 1 of 4
3 Stars of the Game
Antti Niemi
Jason Demers
Marian Hossa
Referees: Auger, Joanette. Linesmen: Devorski, Rody.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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