Antti Niemi Helps San Jose Sharks Prevail In Goaltending Duel

By Jonathan Katje
Brad Stuart Sharks Capitals
Geoff Burke – USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks may be missing some offensive firepower from their lineup, but with Antti Niemi between the pipes that didn’t matter on Tuesday night. Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl are out with injuries, and for the second consecutive game the Sharks struggled to get things going offensively. Only Tyler Kennedy was able to find the back of the net against the Washington Capitals and rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer, but Niemi made 35 saves through regulation and overtime and stopped all three Washington shooters in the tiebreaker to earn his 24th win of the season.

Grubauer was just as strong in his own end, making 28 saves and allowing only one goal in the shootout. It was the second time in two games that he and the Capitals suffered a 2-1 shootout loss, as he continues to be strong despite spotty offensive support. It was Grubauer’s 12th start in 17 games, and while he has definitely shown he can handle the pressure at the highest level, on Tuesday Niemi’s veteran experience provided a slight edge. Alex Ovechkin‘s 33rd goal of the season was the only offense the Capitals could muster, and they lost for the sixth time in eight games as a result.

The Sharks were impressive in a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings last Thursday, but were shut out by the Boston Bruins on Saturday. The one constant for them in the last three games has been Niemi, who has posted a save percentage of .960 or better in each three contests and gives his team a chance to win every time he takes the ice.

Jonathan Katje is an NHL featured columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or add him to your circles on Google Plus.

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