Antti Niemi shows why he's the "Finnish Fortress", makes 44 saves in 2-1 win over Sharks in game 1
From start to finish, it was the kind of exciting, heart-stopping, high-pressure hockey game that you want to see in the playoffs. Ultimately, however, the Antti Niemi stopped 44 of 45 shots for a .978 save percentage, and the Blackhawks scored twice to win over the San Jose Sharks, 2-1, in the opening game of the Western Conference final series.
It took 11:19 in the first period until somebody scored - Jason Demers of the Sharks, on the second San Jose power play, slapped one that appeared to hit Duncan Keith in the sleeve or hip, and it spun off the top pipe into the net behind Antti Niemi. Despite a few near-whoops moments in his efforts to play the puck behind the net, Niemi otherwise showed exactly why he's been nicknamed the "Finnish Fortress", making save after amazing save for his team.
Chicago got on the board at 7:44 into the second period, with the game-equalizing goal by Patrick Sharp; and Dustin Byfuglien stepped up again to put in the game-winning goal at 13:15 into the third period.
The Hawks took some stupid penalties this game, but the Sharks weren't called on any, which led to a lot of social media chat about the refs. Ultimately, however, the Blackhawks showed their usual high-octane PK, and with Niemi standing on his head in the net, they came away with the win.
This is going to be an exciting, wild series.