Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan was very confident in running with Antti Niemi
for Game 6 against Los Angeles and he was rewarded for his commitment. Niemi stopped 26 of 29 shots and was there when it was necessary on a five minute penalty kill that ran into the overtime period.
“Nemo is our go-to guy and we really believe in him,” McLellan said. “There was no hesitation to put him back in. The guys firmly believe in Nemo. They have played against him and he (beat) them and went on to win a Stanley Cup. Now we’re playing with him and they’ve seen the effect he’s had the last three months.”
The Finnish netminder never let the Kings find the lead in the series clinching victory.
“He’s the backbone of our team and if we don’t have Nemo, we’re not here right now,” Joe Thornton
said. “We’re probably sitting in the nine or ten spot. We love playing in front of him and have all the confidence in the world in him.”
The players loved seeing their goalie come back with a stellar performance.
“Nemo comes in after not having the game he wanted to play the last game and stands on his head for us,” Devin Setoguchi said. “You have to give a lot of props to our penalty kill and it starts with the goaltending, but he guys in front of him did a great job.”
“He’s been steady for us all season long. He’s a bug guy and takes away so much net,” Dany Heatley said. “They had a lot of traffic in front of him and he fought through a lot.”
The big save a crunch time is why Niemi is moving on in the postseason again.
“What can you say, he made key saves at key times late in the game, especially on that PK,” Patrick Marleau
said. “There were a couple of opportunities, Ryan Smyth was right in front. He found a way to smother the puck.”
Niemi said a strong start helped set the tone for the night.
“When you make a few saves earlier, it makes it easier,” Niemi said. “I think we played a great game. We knew we wanted to play our own game, not trying to get too much too early.”
When the night was over, Niemi was happy to give back to his teammates.
“For me, and maybe the boys too, I had to be ready to go,” Niemi said.
Niemi has now taken two different clubs to the second round in as many years.
“You try to go game by game and series by series,” Niemi said. “We can feel good about this series for tonight. We’ll start think about the next one tomorrow.”