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Niemi bails out Sharks for 6th in a row
Couture scores late to tie Ducks
1/29/13 - By Mike Lee -

It wasn't pretty, but it was a win. After struggling to generate offense for the better part of the evening, the Sharks bagged a dramatic game tying goal late, missed on a couple of golden chances in overtime, then leaned on goaltender Antti Niemi to steal a point from the visiting Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night at HP Pavilion.

Niemi was the difference on a night when his teammates just couldn't seem to generate any scoring chances. The Sharks goaltender made 28 saves, but more importantly gave his team a chance to scratch back from a 2-1 deficit late in the contest.

Both teams traded heart stopping chance in the overtime period, but it was Niemi that was forced to stand up to keep the contest going. In the shootout, Niemi stopped Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne after Michal Handzus converted on his chance. Selanne's chance may have kept the Ducks alive, but Niemi got a piece of the puck , deflecting it enough to catch iron and send the Sharks home 3-2 winners.

"We have to tell it like it is," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. They were the better team tonight."

Joe Pavelski scored the game's opening goal midway through the opening period after take a feed from Joe Thornton on an odd-man rush. Thornton carried the puck up the left wing, and drew defenseman Luca Sbisa toward him, before sliding a pass to Pavelski on the off wing. Pavelski snapped an 18 foot shot, beating Jonas Hiller to the stick side.

Things turned sour for San Jose in the 2nd period. San Jose was called for too many men on the ice just 1:49 into the period. The Sharks killed the penalty, but then Patrick Marleau was sent off for tripping Perry, although Marleau didn't actually trip the Ducks forward. Perry simply fell down after Marleau lifted his stick.

Another strong penalty kill extinguished that threat, but Francois Beauchemin threw a puck to the front of the Sharks net just after the penalty expired. The puck hit Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray's skate and took a 90 turn into the San Jose net for the 1-1 tie.

Some shoddy defense by the Sharks on the next shift ended up past Antti Niemi after Matt Beleskey rifled a one-timer from the slot. Danniel Winnik intercepted a Sharks clearing attempt behind the San Jose net, before getting it to Ryan Getzlaf who setup Beleskey's shot. There wasn't a Shark defender within 10 feet of Beleskey who sent a shot over Niemi's right shoulder.

The officiating got even more creative, when Daniel Winnik was called for roughing as he tried to get past Sharks defenseman Matt Irwin. Winnik actually thought he had drawn a roughing penalty and was flabbergasted when he realized he was headed to the box.

Referee Dave Jackson then followed that up with a goaltender interference call on Marleau after the Sharks forward crashed the net as a pass entered the crease. Marleau had a defender draped all over his back and tapped Ducks netminder Jonas Hiller as he tried to stab at the puck.

Marleau drew a tripping penalty on Luca Sbisa after getting past the Ducks defense, but the Sharks couldn't get the puck on net. They missed with a Justin Braun shot that pinged off the post at the tail end of the power play. Winnik countered with his own crossbar miss after Anaheim pushed the puck down ice seconds later.

Struggling to retain possession in the Ducks zone all night, San Jose finally found a way to get a second puck past Hiller. Scott Gomez left a drop pass for Logan Couture before heading to the net to create some traffic out in front of the Anaheim net. Couture snapped a shot that Hiller partially stopped, but it slipped through his pads and trickled across the goal line for the equalizing score with 2:45 left in regulation.

Marleau had a golden opportunity at the start of the overtime period, putting a shot off Hiller's chest from the doorstep after slipping past the Ducks defense. Thornton followed that up with his own miss, pushing the puck just wide of the left post from 8 feet out.

Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano had a chance to end things with 1:30 left in the extra period but Niemi stoned him to extend things to the shootout.

In the shootout, Handzus led things off with a shot that beat Hiller low to the stick side. Niemi snuffed out Ryan's chance that was headed for the lower left corner of the goal. Pavelski followed that up with his own miss, but Perry obliged the Sharks by slipping a shot wide left. Ryane Clowe was finally released from the penalty box after racking up his team record eight infractions on Sunday, only to miss on his shootout chance. Niemi sent the sellout crowd home happy with his game-ending save on Selanne.

Game Notes:

Gomez earned his first point as a Shark with his assist on Couture's goal. Gomex logged 15:08 of ice time on 18 shifts, and was 3 of 4 in the faceoff circle.



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Scoring
1 2 3 OT SO T
ANA 0 2 0 0 0 2
SJ 1 0 1 0 1 3
1st period - 1, SJ, Pavelski 3 (Thornton, Marleau), 9:46.
2nd period - 2, ANA, Beauchemin 1 (unassisted), 8:40. 3, ANA, Belesky 1 (Koivu, Ryan), 9:39.
3rd period - 4, SJ, Couture 4 (Gomez, Clowe), 17:15.
Overtime - None.
Shootout - SJ: Handzus (goal), Pavelski (miss), Clowe (miss). ANA: Ryan (miss), Perry (miss), Selanne (miss).
Penalties
1st period - Desjardins, SJ (goaltender interference), 5:53.
2nd period - Bench, SJ (too many men), 1:49; Marleau, SJ (tripping), 6:35; Winnik, ANA (roughing), 17:15; Marleau, SJ (goaltender interference), 19:55.
3rd period - Sbisa, ANA (tripping), 2:07.
Overtime - None.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
ANA - Hiller 18 16
SJ - Niemi 30 28
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 OT T
ANA 13 8 7 2 30
SJ 4 6 7 1 18
Power Play Conversion
ANA 0 of 4
SJ 0 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Antti Niemi
Logan Couture
Jonas Hiller
Attendence
17,562
Officials
Referees: Jackson, St Laurent. Linesmen: Gibbs, Cameron.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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