SAN JOSE (CBS / AP) — Ryane Clowe scored the lone goal early in the first period and Antti Niemi made it stand up with 26 saves for his fifth shutout as the San Jose Sharks returned home from a grueling road trip and beat the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 on Tuesday night.
The Sharks had gone 2-6-1 on the 17-day trip that knocked them out of first place in the Pacific Division and into a precarious position for a playoff berth.
With little room for error in the final quarter of the season, the Sharks managed to hold on thanks to a strong bounceback performance by Niemi to beat the Flyers for the ninth straight time.
Niemi lost four of five games on the trip and didn’t even make it out of the first period in two of those games. But he was up to the task in his first meeting against the Flyers since beating them to win the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010.
The Sharks allowed 35 goals during the road trip but gave up none to the NHL’s highest-scoring team, surviving a wild scramble in front of the net in the final minute when Torrey Mitchell blocked a shot by Claude Giroux.
Ilya Bryzgalov made 22 saves for the Flyers, robbing Joe Thornton and TJ Galiardi early in the third period to keep the deficit at one. But Philadelphia never got the equalizer and remained 11 points behind the first-place New York Rangers in the Atlantic Division. Philadelphia was shut out for the second time in three games, also losing 2-0 last Thursday in Edmonton.
The Flyers briefly lost forward Danny Briere late in the third period when his head crashed into the boards following a hit from behind by Marc-Edouard Vlasic. There was no penalty called on the play.
The game marked the San Jose debuts for forwards Daniel Winnik and Galiardi, acquired before Monday’s NHL trade deadline for forward Jamie McGinn and two prospects.
But the Sharks were far from complete as All-Star forward Logan Couture sat out with a lower body injury after taking three hard hits in Minnesota on Sunday. Defenseman Douglas Murray remained sidelined by a throat injury, and coach Todd McLellan missed the game with concussion symptoms after being hit in the head by a stick in Minnesota. Assistants Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft ran the team in his place.
The Sharks got off to a fast start in their first home game since Feb. 10, with Clowe beating Bryzgalov with a wrist shot just 1:22 in. Niemi, who struggled most of February, did the rest. He made a pad save on a deflection, and stopped Brayden Schenn’s rebound attempt in the closing seconds of the period.
The teams combined for just 13 shots in the second, with the Flyers failing on two power-play chances, and the Sharks unable to convert on their opportunity with the man advantage.
Bryzgalov kept it a one-goal game with a strong stop against Patrick Marleau, who was alone in front in the closing minutes of the second.
NOTES: The Sharks had the lead after the first period for just the 15th time in 62 games this season. They are 12-2-1 in those situations. … The Flyers haven’t won back-to-back games since Jan. 10-12 at Carolina and the New York Islanders. … Philadelphia was shut out for the fifth time this season. … Niemi has 18 career shutouts. … San Jose also played without F Dominic Moore (lower body).
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