Wednesday’s win showed the Sharks efforts at practice the last two days were worth the investment. Antti Niemi
was rewarded with a win against his former team. Douglas Murray
returned with a vengeance and was a star. The power play notched two tallies. And best of all, there was a win for the first time after three straight losses.
“I think we played a more complete game than we’ve played in a while,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said.
Niemi was not worked up about the game against Chicago until he stepped on the ice for warmups.
“Maybe during the warmpus seeing all the guys on the other side, it started to feel like a little bit more than a normal game,” Niemi said. “I had a little more butterflies than against other teams. I was able to keep my head pretty calm there.”
Niemi was glad this game had come and gone as there was a lot of build up for it.
“I’ve known it was going to come as some point,” Niemi said.
Niemi said there were some friendly nods in his direction from his former teammates prior to the faceoff, but Niemi had his game face on.
“Some guys were trying to say something, but I just closed my mind,” Niemi said.
Niemi was appreciative of the efforts by his club in giving him the strong defensive zone coverage.
“I think we played great in the D zone and the penalty killing was one of the best (performances) of the season,” Niemi said. “It was easy for a goalie to play.”
His teammates were glad to provide the services.
“It’s great to see him get a W. He made some great saves for us early on,” Pavelski said. “We haven’t given him the goal support and it’s great to see him beat his old club. I know the emotions must be high. The bond he has with some of those guys is probably pretty strong so it was good to get it for him.”
“We had a pretty good idea that he [Niemi] would be a motivating factor for the rest of the players and I’m glad to see that they showed up and played for him,” McLellan said.
The Sharks talked about how physical they were after the contest and a key reason was the return of Douglas Murray
“He was great, especially at the end in front of our net,” Niemi said, noting when a sliding Murray saved a sure goal.
“He’s been big for us,” Pavelski said. “We miss him when he is out of the lineup and you can see the kind of addition he makes. He competes out there and you get a guy 250, or whatever he is, throwing his weight around, it helps.”
“He was up in the rush and he did everything for us tonight,” Dany Heatley said.
Murray said the time off helped him be involved in all situations.
“I guess I was well rested mentally and physically. It was easy to be physical tonight,” Murray said. “I felt great. When you are coming in with fresh legs, you always want to bring that fresh energy level.”
The Sharks offensives output had struggled a bit recently and part of that was due to the power play coming up empty a few times. Saturday it scored twice and that was the difference.
“We’re getting the shots and getting the chances, but we definitely had the puck more and took it to the net more,” Pavelski said.
Pavelski might seem a little jumpy after a couple of recent plays that dinged him in the head.
“I’m a little gun shy after taking that one to the face,” Pavelski laughed, referring to taking a high stick Wednesday as a follow up to the puck in the mouth that caused nine stitches on the road.
netted two goals giving him sole possession of the team lead (10). Heatley and Marleau are now tied for the team lead in points (20).
Jamal Mayers notched his first goal as a Shark in the second period. The Sharks are now 4-0 when Mayers records a point.
BLACKHAWKS HEAD COACH JOEL QUENNEVILLE
“I like the way we started the game. I thought we had some good intensity throughout the game. The first goal was tough. Them having that lead was important. But then I thought we got ourselves back into it. But then they got that fourth one.”
“We got a couple good looks at the five on three. We need to make better plays and finish it off, but that was certainly a good opportunity to get us back into a spot where we could cash in, but we didn’t.”
San Jose will visit Vancouver on Friday and the 7 p.m. game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.