In a day that saw San Jose Sharks goalie, Evgeni Nabokov stop 38 shots, also featured Antti Niemi at the other end of the ice and he stopped 44 in an impressive, 2-1 Blackhawks victory Sunday.
The two teams got game 1 of the Western Conference Finals started earlier today in San Jose, and it was the road team that remained hot. The Sharks didn’t lose for a lack of effort, but they did come into the game after having the last eight days off.
Niemi has played a decent post-season up until this point, but he hasn’t needed to be spectacular, with Chicago averaging five goals a game in their last four wins. Today was different. Niemi was simply amazing, turning away 44 of the 45 shots the Sharks attempted.
The lone goal for San Jose came at 11:19 into the first-period and it was on a power-play goal from rookie defenseman, Jason Demers. For Demers, it was the 21-year-olds first career goal of the playoffs. The goal was a result of a Dustin Byfluglien interference penalty at 10:36 into the period and just one of the five penalty’s Chicago took in the game.
The first-period came to an end and the Hawks were still in this game. They trailed the Sharks 1-0, but they only trailed 1-0, seeing how it could’ve been a lot worse. The Sharks were given three power-play opportunities and outshot the Hawks 13-8.
Patrick Sharp tied the game at 7:44 in the second, with a long-range, wrist-shot that appeared to surprise Nabokov. The Hawks broke out of their own zone on a turnover and Troy Brouwer and Duncan Keith quickly got the puck down ice to Sharp, who let a shot go just inside the blue line.
The teams would remain tied through the end of the second and once again the Sharks outshot the Hawks, 18-14.
With 6:45 left in the game, Jonathan Toews won a face-off in the San Jose zone, made a quick pass to Patrick Kane, who set up Dustin Byfuglien for the one-timer past Nabokov, to give Chicago a 2-1 lead. The Sharks were unable to put another goal behind Niemi and lost by a final of 2-1.
The Sharks failed to score with a man-advantage for the final 55 seconds, following a Kris Versteeg tripping penalty at 19:04 in the third.
Chicago grabs the early 1-0 series lead and will play game 2, Tuesday night.