Niemi saves Sharks in first OT


Niemi saves Sharks in first OT

ST. LOUIS One of goaltender Antti Niemis trademarks is that the more action he gets, the stronger he becomes.

That may be true not just in terms starting consecutive games. Niemi got better as Game 1 of the Sharks playoff series against the Blues progressed, culminating with a dominant and game-saving 14 stops in the first overtime that allowed his team to win it in the second extra session.

Niemi, who ended with 40 saves on 42 shots, improved to 8-2 all-time in the playoffs in overtime.

Nemo was great, especially in that first overtime, Dan Boyle said. That was our worst period. He came up with some big saves.

Niemi couldnt be faulted on either of the Blues third period goals, both by Patrik Berglund. The Blues winger tipped a Kevin Shattenkirk shot in the first minute tying the game, and then gave his team the lead when he was left wide open in the slot on an odd-man power play rush.

In fact, Niemi looked like he battled some playoff jitters early in the game, when he struggled with his rebound control in the first seven or eight minutes. Fortunately, the group in front of him cleared the puck from dangerous areas of the ice and it remained 0-0 at the first intermission.

I felt good all the way, and a couple goals in the third I wanted to get back, but I felt good overall, Niemi said.

Second line steps up: The Sharks couldnt keep playing the second overtime the way they had in the first. Ryane Clowe knew it, and so did his linemates, Logan Couture and Marty Havlat.

So, they decided to do something about it.

I think it was pretty obvious we knew what had to be done. It wasnt like anyone was leading the charge. We needed a line to step up, Clowe said. All the guys kind of took it upon themselves after the first overtime.

Just a conversation about how we can defend for another overtime if we want, or we can go play a little bit, play some offense and test this goalie a bit more. Luckily, we ended it quick.

It ended, of course, with Havlats one timer, with assists from Clowe and Couture.

We didnt have a good first overtime, and as a line we didnt, Couture said. We wanted to be better, and its just nice Marty was able to get that one.

Rookies produce key goal: The Sharks fourth line once again became their third line before Game 1 was complete.

The scoresheet shows that Andrew Desjardins, Tommy Wingels and Daniel Winnik saw less ice time than the Dominic Moore-Torrey Mitchell-TJ Galiardi trio, but after getting the game-tying goal in the third period, their playing time gradually increased.

For a team that boasts so much playoff experience, it was a couple of guys with a combined three postseason games coming in (all by Desjardins) that teamed up to tie the game late in the third when Wingels set up his centerman in the slot at 14:44.

It was Desjardins second career playoff goal.

We can talk about the goal, but the 13 or 14 minutes that they played for us was very valuable, McLellan said. Played hard, played smart, Desi was very good in the faceoff circle. Tommy got some power play time, and played an important role on that line.

When you get those two young guys playing together and a veteran like Daniel Winnik, you have a fourth line, or a third line, that you can trust whatever they might be.

Desjardins won six of his seven faceoffs.

The Sharks were able to roll four lines for the duration.

The reward was in the fourth or fifth period. It wasnt necessarily in the second or third period. It was in the fifth period, McLellan said. We did try to get those four lines rolling, and I think it will be an important facet moving forward in this series.

Meier back with Sharks after working on his game in AHL

Meier back with Sharks after working on his game in AHL

ST. PAUL – On paper, Timo Meier’s production after he was reassigned to the AHL Barracuda on Feb. 16 was down. The former first-round pick had just six points (3g, 3a) in 14 games, and was scoreless in his last five, a far cry from what he was doing there earlier in the season and way off his numbers in juniors.

But at just 20 years old, Meier is still in the learning phase of his professional career. And as impressive as the Barracuda have been this season, they’re still playing in a developmental league, first and foremost. Meier got a chance to work on some of the aspects of his game he needed to work on.

“It was obviously hard going back,” said Meier, who has three goals and two assists in 28 games, before Tuesday’s game in Minnesota. “Sometimes you go back there and you try too much, but they told me to work on some things in my game, and I tried to do that.

“For me, going down there it was all about learning stuff on the ice, off the ice. … It’s my first year [in pro hockey], so as a young guy you want to learn and listen to the coaches, too. Just get better.”

Coach Pete DeBoer went into pretty good detail on what the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft needed to do with the Barracuda, and what he needs to show now that he’s back in the NHL.

“I think with a lot of big, talented young guys, they have to realize when they can make an extra play with the puck and when they have to chip it in,” DeBoer said. “They’re so used to dominating at the levels they’ve been at for so long, that [it’s] easier said than done. It’s habits you have to learn, and you don’t learn unless you’re doing them on a consistent basis.”

Meier’s shot selection, too, is something that needed some improvement, according to the coach. While the power winger might be generating plenty of shot attempts, no doubt pleasing the advanced stats crowd, there’s more to being an effective forward than running up numbers on the Excel spreadsheets.

“You don’t want to shoot [just] to shoot up here, or to just get shots on net. You’re not scoring on NHL goalies like you are on junior goalies from 30 or 40 feet out,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to pick your spots. Sometimes you have to look for a better play than a shot.”

Meier said: “It’s a really tough league. As a young guy coming in, sometimes you’ve got to stay patient, too, try not [to do] too much. … Sometimes I tried [to do] a little too much.”

Meier has been in the Sharks’ lineup for each of the last two games. He started on the fourth line before getting bumped up to Tomas Hertl’s third line on Monday in Dallas, and returned to the fourth line with Chris Tierney and Micheal Haley for Tuesday’s tilt in Minnesota. He is scoreless with two shots on goal over those two games.

He could be a temporary fill in for Jannik Hansen, who remains out with an upper body injury but could potentially return before the end of the road trip this weekend. Or, perhaps Meier does enough to stick around for the stretch run and the playoffs. There would seem to be an opportunity to push someone else out of the lineup, as the Sharks’ depth scoring has been a season-long problem.

“It’s a great opportunity for me, getting that chance again later on in the season,” Meier said. “I want to put it all on the ice, leave it all out there and just make the best out of every shift I get. Play my game, play within my strengths, [do] the things that got me here, and I’m sure I’ll be successful like that.”

Three takeaways: Sharks' third line woes continue

Three takeaways: Sharks' third line woes continue

ST. PAUL – The losing streak endures, as the Sharks dropped their fourth straight, 3-2 in Minnesota on Tuesday night. A quick start from the home team, and an even quicker response after the Sharks tied it up late in the second keyed the Wild win. Let’s dig a little deeper, though, with our three takeaways…

1 – Wild come out flying

The Sharks’ general lack of panic after their latest loss, as we touched on in the recap, surely had something to do with the circumstances. Minnesota had an extra day of rest while the Sharks were on their second of a back-to-back, with travel. San Jose was also capping off a stretch of seven games in just 11 days (I believe we’ve mentioned here before just how monumentally foolish this year’s NHL schedule is). 

Frankly, the start was predictable. Minnesota was a ticked off team having lost five straight, and even though it had dropped is previous game in Winnipeg, 5-4, it erased a 4-0 deficit in that one only to lose it late. Surely that was a sign that the Wild were ready to break through in the win column.

Pete DeBoer said the Sharks “expected” an early push from Minnesota.

“They’ve been sitting here waiting, they’re desperate, they’re fresh, they’re healthy. We’re coming in on a back-to-back. We knew the first period would be tough. It wasn’t pretty, but we escaped only down 1-0 and I thought from that point on we started to fight back a little bit. Did some good things, just too little too late.”

The Sharks were competitive over the final two periods, finally getting their first goal in more than 138 minutes of game play to make it 1-1 (it was originally credited to David Schlemko, but has since been changed to Patrick Marleau). At that point, though, it was Minnesota’s turn to respond. It did, and that was the game.

2 – Third line woes

We touched on the Sharks’ lack of secondary scorers yesterday, and it was on full display against the Wild again Tuesday night as the third line of Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker failed to do anything productive. Hertl had one decent chance in the first period from the slot that Devan Dubnyk turned away, but was later too soft and too slow on Minnesota’s third goal, as Zach Parise outhustled and outmuscled him before dishing to Charlie Coyle.

Donskoi finished with two shots, and didn’t even get one off on a second period breakaway. Boedker had no shots, and just one attempt.

Hertl now has no points in his last 10 games, and Donskoi hasn’t found the scoresheet, either, in nine games since returning from an upper body injury.

Prior to Tuesday night’s game, DeBoer indicated it’s taking some time for both players to get up to speed after being out. Hertl, of course, missed two months with his latest right knee injury.

“You come back, there’s a little bit of adrenaline, you’re on a high, and the reality hits that you missed some time and the league is moving at a really fast pace,” DeBoer said. “Just got to play through it and keep battling.”

Hertl said: “I for sure expect [more] of myself. … I try to stay with my game, try and make plays, be strong on the puck, make my linemates better. I need to just keep working all over [in the] D-zone, O-zone, and even power play.”

3 – Dealing without Vlasic

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was the second Sharks player in two nights to be sidelined by a flu bug, so Schlemko was bumped up to replace him paired with Justin Braun, while Dylan DeMelo and Brenden Dillon comprised the third pair.

Schlemko had a nice game, even if he is no longer getting credit for his third goal of the season. He finished with one assist, a plus-one rating, three shot attempts and three blocks.

“You can’t really replace a guy like [Vlasic],” he said. “He’s one of the best defensive D in the league. Just trying to keep it simple. We switched up the partners and spread out the ice time pretty well. Not the start we wanted, but after the first I thought we played pretty well. Played hard.”

DeBoer said: “We've got a little bit of a flu going through. Tierney was out yesterday with it, [Vlasic] got it today. Hopefully, that’s the end of it.”