The San Jose Sharks (44-17-7, 95 points) defeated the New York Islanders (25-34-9, 59 points) by the final score of 4-3 Friday, extending their winning streak to five games. Much like Thursday night, the team relied on great goaltending, only this time it was Antti Niemi who finished with 35 saves.
Friday evening, as we thought, Antti Niemi got the start and performed well. Much like last night in Columbus the San Jose Sharks played inconsistently, and when the defense was lacking Niemi was there to back them up.
In the first period the Islanders got off to a great start dominating the play and the shot clock, but eventually San Jose got their legs under them and got the first goal of the game.
Once again it was the line centered by Logan Couture that got the team going offensively, and it was Matt Nieto who got that goal. The line as a whole was already buzzing around the net from their prior shift when Couture hit the post. The following shift Nieto got his 10th goal of the season from the front of the net with Couture feeding to him from the side of the net.
A little over a minute later the third line chipped in with some beautiful passing initiated by Martin Havlat who went tic-tac-toe with James Sheppard then went to Jason Demers on the far side of the ice who buried it in the open net. With that goal it was 2-0 Sharks and they headed to the dressing room.
At the start of the second period the Islanders got onto the scoreboard with a goal less than 30 seconds in. The goal came after the Sharks won the faceoff but failed to move the puck out of the zone. Instead, it resulted in a couple of chances for the Islanders, one of which resulted in a backhander from the slot by Anders Lee that just squeezed through the pads of Niemi.
Later on, at the midway point of the second, Joe Thornton would score his 10th goal of the season on a rebound opportunity. Brent Burns fired the initial shot from the slot after he snatched a puck out of the air and was in a great position to score.
The Islanders answered back once again though and cut the lead to 3-2, this time on a Brock Nelson tip-in off a shot-pass from the point by defenseman Matt Donovan. He did a great job of getting his head up once he got the puck on the blue-line and was able to spot his teammate in the slot.
However, Martin Havlat answered for the San Jose Sharks on a wrist shot from Evgeni Nabokov‘s left with a screen in front. The shot was well-placed and beat Nabby on the glove side giving the San Jose Sharks the 4-2 before the end of the period.
In the third period the Islanders continued to pour it on but the Sharks stood strong up until the very end of the period. At that point, with 1:30 left in regulation and the Islanders still down 4-2, they pulled their goaltender and threw everything they had at Niemi. They would break through once with 21.4 seconds left making it a one-goal game for the third time, but there would be no catching the San Jose Sharks as time would expire.
While the game ended up being closer than it had to be, the Sharks pulled out a tough win on the road in the second-half of back-to-backs and are now in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division. That may only be for a short time though, as the Ducks have two games in hand on the Sharks including one later on this evening.
GGS 3 Stars
1. Antti Niemi (35 saves)
2. Martin Havlat (1 goal, 1 assist)
3. Anders Lee (1 goal, 1 assist)