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Niemi continues to stymie Red Wings

Sharks' goalie has been masterful in three wins

Wednesday, 05.4.2011 / 11:58 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Niemi continues to stymie Red Wings
DETROIT – The way Antti Niemi played against the Red Wings in the first two games of this series, it’s hard to imagine that the San Jose goalie allowed three-or-more goals five times, and was pulled twice, in the Sharks’ first-round playoff series win over Los Angeles.

Yet Niemi was nearly impenetrable in a pair of 2-1 victories over the Wings in the Western Conference semifinals series at HP Pavilion. And though he allowed three goals Wednesday, Niemi was stellar when he had to be in a 4-3 overtime win that has given the Sharks a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series. Game 4 is Friday at Joe Louis Arena.

Unfortunately, Wednesday’s Game 3 began with a similar tune, as the Sharks’ goalie was very sharp once again. It took awhile, but the patient Wings finally solved the Finnish goalie, getting more consistent traffic in front of the Sharks’ net, resulting in three goals, including two power-play tallies.

“I think we knew they were going to come hard," Niemi said, of the Wings' forwards. "The start of the game was key, to be able to set the tone and score first, so it was big. We kept playing the way we played at home and I think we just have to be the hardest working team in the playoffs.”

Nobody has ever won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles with two different teams. However, Niemi, who won a Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last spring, is playing like he could be the first. He has made 119 saves on 124 shots – that’s a .960 save percentage – against the Wings.

Niemi was also helped out by his teammates, who blocked 24 shots, including seven by defenseman Douglas Murray.

Iit’s not that the Wings haven’t gotten a lot of shots on Niemi. They have. But for the most part, Niemi hasn’t had any problem seeing every shot. And that’s why the increased pressure in front of Niemi was paramount Wednesday.

Still, Niemi was up to his old tricks early, stopping Jiri Hudler’s point-blank shot that was labeled for the top of the net in the first period. With the Wings on a power-play, and Dan Boyle and Johan Franzen jousting in front of the crease, Hudler ripped a one-timer from the bottom of the right circle that was snagged from midair by Niemi.

Later on, the Wings finally put a puck past Niemi, tying the game at 1-1, with 22-seconds left in the first period. With Niemi and Boyle sprawled in the crease, Nicklas Lidstrom took a between-the-legs pass from Henrik Zetterberg and fired a shot from the slot over the Sharks’ fallen pair.

The goal was the 29th power-play goal in Lidstrom’s legendary postseason career, tying the Wings’ captain with Mario Lemieux for fifth-place in NHL playoff history.

Niemi had a few highlight reel saves Wednesday. Besides the stop on Hudler, Niemi also stymied Ruslan Salei. Late in the first, the Wings’ defenseman cruised in alone and snapped a shot high, but the goalie got a piece of the puck with the webbing of his glove, redirecting it into the standings.

Nobody has ever won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles with two different teams. Niemi, who won a Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last spring, could be the first.

The Wings built a 3-2 lead late in the second period when Patrick Eaves and Pavel Datsyuk scored. But the Wings couldn’t hold on to the lead in regulation … nor win it in overtime.

In their history, the Wings are 0-10 in best-of-seven playoff series when they start in a 0-3 hole. They have been swept eight times.

 

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HOME
AWAY
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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