Niemi brilliant, Sharks open road trip with shootout victory
With Monday's victory in Detroit, the Sharks (8-0-1) remain the NHL’s only team without a regulation loss. (AP)
DETROIT – Maybe Brent Burns really is the key to the Sharks’ offense.
In the first game of a five-game road swing, the Sharks beat the Red Wings in a shootout, 1-0, on Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
After scoring at least three goals in each of their first eight games, with an average of nearly five per game, the Sharks were thwarted throughout regulation and overtime. Still, they managed to keep the Red Wings off of the board, too, and won on Logan Couture’s marker in the skills competition, the only shooter to convert. Antti Niemi stopped Todd Bertuzzi with an outstanding pad save to end the game.
The Sharks remain the NHL’s only team without a regulation loss (8-0-1).
Burns missed the game with a facial injury sustained against Calgary. It was the second time in four games he was hit up high, after he took a stick to the face from Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner on Oct. 12. Indications are he won’t be out for an extended period of time.
Since the start of the 2013 season, the Sharks are 20-9-2 with Burns lined up as a forward and average nearly 3.3 goals per game. When he’s a defenseman, or not in the lineup at all, the Sharks are just 13-7-6 and average approximately 2.1 goals per game (regular season only).
In Burns’ place, rookie forward Freddie Hamilton skated with Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl.
Scoring chances were at a premium from start to finish. The Sharks had some early chances on a pair of first period power plays, but Couture was stopped in front with six minutes to go in the frame.
Detroit’s best push came in the third period, but Niemi held the fort in his ninth straight start. The goalie smothered a wrist shot by Jordin Tootoo on a two-on-one rush with 6:34 to go, and appeared to get his blocker on a Brendan Smith wrist shot with five minutes left, after the Detroit defenseman streaked untouched towards the crease.
Earlier in the third, the Red Wings had eight straight shots on goal in between San Jose’s attempts.
Patrick Marleau’s eight-game point streak and five-game goal streak came to an end.
The Sharks play the Red Wings just once more, on Jan. 9 at SAP Center, after Detroit’s offseason move to the Eastern Conference.
The Sharks failed on three power play attempts, and all came before the midway point of regulation.
Detroit finished 0-for-2. James Sheppard’s interference penalty with 4:57 left in regulation offered an opportunity to break the deadlock, but the Red Wings failed to get a shot on goal during the late advantage.
The Sharks entered the game with 23 minutes and 51 seconds more time on the power play than the penalty kill, a league best differential.
Niemi made 24 saves while Jimmy Howard stopped 27, in a game in which both goaltenders got credit for their first shutouts of the season.
Niemi, who has played every minute of every game, is 8-0-1. Howard fell to 3-3-1.
Hamilton and John McCarthy were recalled from Worcester before the game. McCarthy skated on the fourth line, where Matt Pelech was before he was reassigned to the Sharks’ AHL affiliate.
Defenseman Dan Boyle missed his third straight game after going head first into the boards against St. Louis on Oct. 15.
The Sharks’ have two days off before facing the Boston Bruins on Thursday as their road trip continues. Visits to Montreal on Saturday and Ottawa on Sunday round out the week.