Streaking Sharks play host to Panthers

By The Sports NetworkMarch 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM
share with facebook
share with twitter

( - After winning the first five games of their current hot streak with offense, the San Jose Sharks rode goaltender Antti Niemi to a sixth straight victory the last time out.

Niemi and the hard-charging Sharks will aim for their longest winning streak of the season when they host the Florida Panthers in Tuesday's battle at SAP Center.

San Jose outscored the opposition by a 23-11 margin in the first five games of its current six-game winning streak, but picked up the last victory with Sunday's 1-0 decision in New York City. Niemi turned aside 41 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, while Logan Couture recorded the lone goal in the win over the Rangers.

Niemi's whitewash marked the first time San Jose blanked New York in Manhattan since entering the NHL in 1991.

"He was unbelievable. Some of the stops he made were incredible," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said of Niemi. "That may be his best game all year."

The Sharks, who enter Tuesday tied with Anaheim atop the Pacific Division standings, are on their fourth six-game winning streak of the 2013-14 campaign. San Jose hasn't won seven in a row since March 25-April 5 of last season.

The Ducks hold a game in hand over San Jose in the division title race and Anaheim is scheduled to host the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

The Sharks are 11-2-1 since the beginning of February, but they shouldn't take the visiting Panthers lightly on Tuesday. Although Florida is 18 points out of a playoff spot in the East and has lost four of its last five games, the South Florida club has had success against San Jose in recent years.

The Panthers had won four straight over the Sharks before San Jose ended the slide with a 3-0 win in Sunrise on Jan. 16. Alex Stalock stopped 24 shots to record the shutout in that one, while Joe Pavelski had a goal and an assist.

Florida also has won its last two games at the Shark Tank, as San Jose hasn't claimed a home win over the Panthers since a 6-2 victory on Dec. 8, 2005.

The Panthers are coming off a shootout loss Sunday against the visiting Vancouver Canucks. Nicklas Jensen beat Roberto Luongo once in regulation and again in a shootout as the Canucks edged Florida, 4-3. It was Luongo's first game against the Canucks since they dealt him on March 4.

Jensen had the only goal of the shootout after Jimmy Hayes scored his second goal to tie the game for Florida with 1:35 left in regulation. Jensen's shot hit the post, then trickled in after going off Luongo's back.

Luongo fell to 2-2-1 in net since he was acquired from Vancouver along with forward Steven Anthony in exchange for goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias. Luongo became the all-time wins leader in Panthers history during his first five-season stint with the team before he was traded to Vancouver in 2006.

"I saw a few guys before the game, had a little chat. But once we were out there it felt like a normal game, especially once you get the first few minutes under your belt," said Luongo. "It felt like any other game."

Florida is beginning a four-game road trip on Tuesday. The Panthers are just 12-20-3 as the visiting team this season and have dropped seven of their last eight on the road.


Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories