Instant Replay: Niemi benched, Sharks fall to Flyers

Instant Replay: Niemi benched, Sharks fall to Flyers
February 3, 2014, 10:00 pm
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Antti Niemi was pulled for the fifth time this season. He took the loss allowing four goals on 23 shots. (USATI)

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – In a sloppy, tired performance that was exposed even further by a shaky outing by goalie Antti Niemi, the Sharks lost 5-2 to Philadelphia on Monday night at SAP Center.

It was the Sharks’ fourth loss in the last five games (1-4-0), with the lone win coming in a shootout on Saturday vs. Chicago.

The Flyers beat San Jose for the first time since Dec. 21, 2000, ending a 13-game losing streak.

San Jose led 2-1 after the first period, but was dominated for much of the rest of the game, despite carrying that slim lead into the start of the third. It didn’t take long for things to fall apart once the final frame began, though.

First, Matt Read’s wrist shot was deflected by Matt Irwin and fluttered past Niemi from a bad angle at 1:11, tying the game. The Flyers’ fourth liners generated a goal at 2:29, when Erik Gustafsson’s wrister from the point was left in the slot on a rebound off of Niemi’s pads. Michael Raffl was there to hammer it in.

A bad neutral turnover by Irwin, and an even worse goal allowed by Niemi, gave Philadelphia a 4-2 lead when Claude Giroux’s wrist shot beat the goaltender to the glove side at 3:56.

Alex Stalock relieved Niemi at that point, but the Sharks failed to get any more pucks past Philadelphia’s Steve Mason despite two more power plays. Jakub Voracek put the game away on a pass from Giroux at 17:44, after a soft play along the wall by Marty Havlat.

Matt Nieto scored two first period goals to give the Sharks a 2-1 edge, after Mark Streit’s power play goal earlier opened the scoring.

The first came on the power play. Irwin fired the puck into the zone from behind the red line, and Tommy Wingels raced in to retrieve it. Wingels quickly found Nieto in front of the net for a tip-in at 7:33.

Less than five minutes later, the Sharks took their first lead. Brent Burns’ strong work along the boards allowed him to find room to Nieto alone in front of the net after a breakdown by the Flyers’ defenders. Nieto made a quick deke and beat Mason at 12:32 for the first multiple-goal game of his NHL career.

San Jose was lucky to escape the first 15 minutes of the second period with that lead still intact, and had just one shot on goal in the first half of the middle frame. Niemi smothered a chance by Wayne Simmonds in the circle with 10:59 to go, and later got a little help when Gustafsson missed a wide open net from the slot with five minutes to go.

Burns’ snap shot from the circle on the power play with less then four minutes to go nearly made it 3-1, but it rang cleanly off of the near post. He has yet to score since Logan Couture came out of the lineup 14 games ago.

The Sharks and Flyers meet once more in the first game after the Olympic break, on Feb. 27 at Wells Fargo Center.

San Jose scored more than one goal in regulation for the first time in five games. Overall, the Sharks have just four goals in the last five games.

Special teams

The Flyers finished 1-for-2 on the power play, while San Jose was just 1-for-5.

Nieto’s power play goal, the first of his career, ended an 0-for-16 streak on the power play in the previous six games for the Sharks.

Philadelphia has scored at least one power play goal in its last seven games.

In goal

Niemi, who had been playing better lately after an inconsistent November and December, was pulled for the fifth time this season. He took the loss allowing four goals on 23 shots. Stalock allowed one goal on five shots.

Mason came in with shutouts in two of his last three starts. He improved to 22-14-5 with 20 saves.

Lineup

Tyler Kennedy (lower body) missed his third straight game, despite looking ready to go in the pregame skate. Jason Demers (lower body) missed his second game in a row.

Philadelphia was without top defenseman Kimmo Timonen (bruised foot).

Up next

The Sharks host Dallas on Wednesday and Columbus on Friday in the final two games before the Olympic break.