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31 makes 31 saves in 2-0 shutout
Niemi blanks Blackhawks for 3rd straight win
1/31/15 - By Mike Lee -

After opening the season with a hellacious schedule, the Sharks are finally getting some chances to square off against tired teams. That's all meaningless if you don't put those teams away though. The Sharks put the Chicago Blackhawks away on Saturday night in a nail-biting 2-0 decision, powered by a monster game from goaltender Antti Niemi. The win snapped a 7-game winless streak against Chicago.

The numerologists were having a field day Saturday night as Niemi (#31) made 31 saves, to earn his 31st career shutout…on the 31st of January. The Sharks netminder stood on his head against a Blackhawks team that knocked off the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 just 24 hours earlier in Southern California.

The Blackhawks had their chances, but it's tough to argue that games on back to back night didn't take its toll on the visitors. Chicago out-shot San Jose 31-20, including a 15-shot outburst in the 2nd period.

Niemi made plenty of big saves, but his ability to control the puck denied Chicago many second chance opportunities.

"Nemo played great," said Joe Thornton. "I think for half the game the shots were 2-1. But he stuffed a few break aways. He was a stud for us."

That 2nd period was a test for the former Blackhawks goaltender. Chicago made their push in that 2nd frame. The biggest stop of the game came with 5:30 left in the period when Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews threw a series of shots at the Sharks goaltender from in tight after Niemi denied him on a breakaway chance.

Niemi made the big stop, then got some assistance from Brent Burns who prevented a follow up shot from sliding across the goal line. Even then Niemi was forced to make snow angels to gather the elusive piece of rubber that loitered in the crease seemingly finding Toews stick after slipping under Niemi several times.

"It was a terrific game for him [Niemi] and as a result, it was a terrific game for us," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "He made some very tough saves in succession. I think of that break away on our power play and even the four on four situation. So great for Nemo, great for our team."

Niemi stoned Brandon Saad in the 3rd period on a golden scoring opportunity. Saad took a feed from Towes as he bolted toward the net form the left side, uncorking a shot that Niemi denied. Saad barreled into Niemi spinning the netminder right out of his net.

Those saves became more important due to the Sharks limited production from the offense. With Niemi's heroics, all the Sharks needed was Melker Karlsson's 8th tall y of the season, which came 5:09 into the game.

Matt Irwin started the scoring sequence by putting a shot on Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta from the left wing. The shot bounced off the crest on Raanta's jersey where Karlsson tried putting a follow up shot on goal. Raanta appeared to make the save, but Karlsson chipped his own rebound off of Blackhawk defenseman Duncan Keith's stick and across the goal line after passing the left post.

San Jose's low goal production was influenced by their inability to get many more pucks on net. San Jose was limited to their 20 shots, even though they enjoyed a 3-1 advantage in power play opportunities.

Thornton missed a prime chance in the 3rd period after Joe Pavelski set him up with a cross ice pass. Thornton gathered Pavelski's pass, but heeled his shot, sending it wide left as Raanta failed to get over to cover the left side of the net.

Thornton wouldn't miss on his empty net chance late in the game after Chicago was forced to pull Raanta.

"We didn't get a lot of chances, but the ones that we did get were pretty good." Said Toews. "It was a tight checking game, I don't think we gave up a whole heck of a lot either; it would've been nice to find a way to tie it up and maybe get some momentum, and get them on their heels a little bit; we played smart "D" in the third, and we just couldn't get the momentum we had in the second period. We were creating a lot of chances off the rush and cycled but just didn't create a lot in the third."



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
CHI 0 0 0 0
SJ 1 0 1 2
1st period - 1, SJ, Karlsson 8 (Irwin, Thornton), 5:09.
2nd period - None.
3rd period - 2, SJ, Thornton 11 (Karlsson, Tennyson), 18:50, (en).
Penalties
1st period - Hossa, CHI (interference), 12:33; Shaw, CHI (slashing), 19:03; Thornton, SJ (slashing), 19:03.
2nd period - Tennyson, SJ (high sticking), 1:27; Bench, CHI (too many men), 3:37; Rozsival, CHI (hooking), 12:58.
3rd period - None.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
CHI - Raanta 19 18
CHI - empty net 1 0
SJ - Niemi 31 31
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
CHI 9 15 7 31
SJ 7 6 7 20
Power Play Conversion
CHI 0 of 1
SJ 0 of 3
3 Stars of the Game
Antti Niemi
Melker Karlsson
Jonathan Toews
Attendance
17,562
Officials
Referees: O'Rourke, L'Ecuyer. Linesmen: Racicot, Shewchyk.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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