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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  - 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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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80