It was a tale of two goalies in game five of the quarterfinal matchup in the 2011 NHL Playoffs between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings. Maybe it should be a tale of three goalies, with two of them playing well and one of them ... not so well. Antti Niemi was pulled in the first period after giving up three goals on only four shots, and Antero Niittymaki came in. Jonathan Quick was nothing short of amazing for the Kings, and he was the catalyst for maintaining the Kings three-goal lead and getting the win.
Niemi gave up the first goal after making a mistake while playing the puck behind the net, he gave it away to Brad Richardson along the boards and Kyle Clifford was more than happy to take his rebound and sink it in the net. The second goal came off a bad, bad turnover by Dan Boyle in the neutral zone, and it set up a two-on-one, where Brad Richardson shoots and Clifford, along with Wayne Simmonds, put it in the goal without much issue. Following that, Ian White gave the puck away to Dustin Pener, who put it past Niemi for the third goal. At that point, he was pulled.
Niittymaki came in at that point, and he looked great. He made one of the best saves of his career in the third period, but he didn't have the support from his team to get a win. Patrick Marleau got the lone goal for the Sharks, with the help of Joe Thornton and Niclas Wallin. It was a good goal, but looking at the final statline, you'd think it was a fluke. Niittymaki stopped all eighteen shots that came his way, and deserves props and potentially a starting nod in game six.
But back to Quick, he was amazing in this game. Looking at the final score, you might think the Sharks got dominated in all phases of the game, but it wasn't so. They dominated play in the second and third periods, but could not crack the code that was Jonathan Quick. Ryane Clowe was robbed on a fantastic shot, Logan Couture was preempted and had his solo attack stopped. There was nothing they could do. Quick stopped 51 of 52 shots with a .981 save percentage.
It's not that the Sharks would have won if Quick wasn't so on his game, but they outshot the Kings (who were actually fairly aggressive) 52 shots to 22. It's hard to tell how the Sharks should feel after this game, but it's definitely one that you could label as "stolen" by the opposing goalie. They hit well, they shot well, they controlled the puck well and they didn't get the win in the end.
The biggest decision now will be who will start in net for the Sharks, Niemi or Niittymaki. The Sharks will have two days to figure that out, as play resumes for game six in Los Angeles on Monday.