Niemi has 31 saves as Sharks top Avalanche, 3-2
DENVER (AP) Semyon Varlamov was nearly unbeatable in regulation and overtime. He couldn't match it with the game on the line.
Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski scored in the shootout to help the San Jose Sharks beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Antti Niemi stopped 31 shots and both Avalanche players in the shootout to give the Sharks the win.
Varlamov had a season-high 49 saves, many of them highlight worthy. He kept the Sharks frustrated through overtime but didn't make a save in the shootout.
''We finally made a couple good shots to beat him,'' Pavelski said.
Alex Tanguay and Gabriel Landeskog scored in regulation for the Avalanche, who have one win in four home games this season.
Marleau and Pavelski came through as the first two shooters to put the pressure on Colorado in the shootout. Niemi stopped Tanguay and then made a glove save on Matt Duchene to end the game.
''Were happy we got two points. We played a good game, a good 60 minutes,'' Niemi said. ''We were able to get chances in all the periods. We played well, we (just) couldn't score.''
It was a frustrating end for Colorado, which fell to 0-3-1 in games decided after regulation. This was the Avalanche's first shootout loss.
After a stingy first two periods the teams scored goals 1:59 apart in the third. Landeskog gave Colorado a 2-1 lead with his fourth goal of the season 3:04 in the period. Logan Couture answered when he scored on a rebound at 5:03.
San Jose reached its season high in shots with more than three minutes left in the second period. The Sharks were swarming Varlamov but he had big saves on Pavelski, Marleau and Joe Thornton to keep Colorado close.
''I felt pretty good, but we need points right now,'' Varlamov said. ''Every point is very important. We want to win every game and there is frustration, but I think we played a solid game. We had a couple chances around the net.''
His skaters finally came through on a short-handed chance late in the second. Erik Johnson's clearing attempt to the San Jose blueline was mishandled by Burns and scooped up by Tanguay. Tanguay skated around Couture and beat Niemi high to tie it at 1-1. It was his fourth goal of the season.
San Jose had a 41-17 shot advantage heading into the third.
Niemi was rarely tested in the first two periods but had to come up with some big saves in the third period and overtime. Colorado had a power play in the final 1:05 of the extra period and had chances to end it but couldn't cash in.
Niemi made a save on Duchene as the horn sounded to end overtime.
''That was a big save, and it really did give us confidence going forward,'' Niemi said.
The Sharks led 1-0 after the first despite outplaying Colorado for the entire period. San Jose held a 23-8 advantage in shots and at one point had 14 straight on Varlamov. The only one to get past him was Brett Burns' tip of Mirco Mueller's shot from the point at 9:23 of the period.
''He was outstanding, he made some incredible saves, especially in the first where we were struggling a lot,'' Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. ''After they took a 1-0 lead we just lost our focus. That part of the game was not very pretty for us.''
The Sharks had other opportunities to score. Tomas Hertl had an open net but his backhand hit the crossbar. They also had numerous odd-man rushes but couldn't capitalize on them.
''We said all the right things before the game, we were ready to, but then the Sharks just pounced on us and they were better than us in the first period,'' Avalanche forward Jamie McGinn said. ''Varly gave us a chance to stay in it and win the game. Our second period was better but still not good enough. It;s just unacceptable to have that kind of start.''
Colorado, despite being dominated, nearly tied it on Duchene's shot with 1.5 seconds left in the period but Niemi made a diving glove save to keep San Jose in the lead.
NOTES: Johnson played despite suffering a hit to the head in Sunday's loss at Winnipeg. He was cleared after the game and practiced Monday. ... Avalanche LW Jamie McGinn and his brother, Sharks LW Tye McGinn, played against each other for the first time in their NHL careers. ... San Jose's previous high in shots was 37.