By Josh Dubow, AP Sports Writer
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — With points at a premium and his backup on the injured list, San Jose goalie Antti Niemi has little time to rest.
Good thing for the Sharks he doesn’t need much right now.
Niemi made 27 saves for his second shutout in two nights and the Sharks won their third straight game in regulation, beating the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 on Thursday.
“I felt good after last night,” Niemi said. “I thought I was able to be real patient and wait for the pucks and then react. I wasn’t cheating or expecting anything else. I was just reading the play.”
Niemi followed up a 4-0 win over Anaheim with another sterling performance to become the first goalie this season to post shutouts on consecutive days and first Shark ever to do it. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller was the last goalie to pull off the feat, doing it against Anaheim and San Jose last season.
Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns each scored for the third consecutive game for the Sharks, who are on their longest winning streak since starting the season with seven straight wins.
San Jose had won just three of its previous 25 games in regulation before this current streak that started with a home-and-home sweep of first-place Anaheim and ended with a shutout of the rival Red Wings.
“We’re playing like a team,” coach Todd McLellan said. “Each line is contributing. We’ve come to a little bit of an agreement. I don’t know if we’ve actually talked about it but guys have come to the conclusion that we need to play a certain way to be successful.”
The Sharks have moved from ninth place to seventh in the Western Conference with the three wins this week, all coming after general manager Doug Wilson dealt bruising defender Douglas Murray to Pittsburgh for two draft picks.
The Red Wings came into the game as the more rested team having had two days off since beating Phoenix on Monday night to improve to 3-0 on this four-game road trip. But they couldn’t complete the perfect Western swing as they fell behind when the Sharks scored on an odd deflection and failed to generate many scoring chances against Niemi.
“It was a real good road trip and we did a lot of good things tonight,” coach Mike Babcock said. “There wasn’t a lot to choose between the teams, we just had a tough break.”
Niemi needed to make only 22 saves in the 4-0 win over Anaheim on Wednesday night and wasn’t tested too much more against the Red Wings. He earned back-to-back shutouts for the third time in his career and did on consecutive nights for the first time.
With backup Thomas Greiss out with a neck injury, Niemi has started 11 straight games and has shown no signs of wearing down with the heavy workload.
He made back-to-back saves on Gustav Nyquist and Jordin Tootoo in the second period to thwart Detroit’s best chance and preserve the 1-0 lead.
The Sharks took advantage of a Detroit mistake for an insurance goal early in the third. Joe Thornton took the puck from Brian Lashoff on the forecheck and slid a pass to Burns, who beat Jimmy Howard up high to make it 2-0. Burns now has 10 points in nine games since moving from defense to forward, including goals in three straight.
“I think a lot of it is the linemates,” Burns said. “They’re both playing well. They’re both so smart. A lot of times I’m just running around trying to cause chaos and those two are making great plays. Tonight it was just a great pass by Jumbo.”
Niemi preserved the shutout with a nice stop on a backhander by Henrik Zetterberg with Detroit on the only power play of the game later in the third period.
“It was tight both ways,” Zetterberg said. “There were not a lot of chances both ways. We got halted on the rush, but we also kept them to the outside. The first goal was off a skate and the second one was a giveaway. That’s about it.”
Pavelski got San Jose started on the scoring front for the second straight game when his pass deflected off Niklas Kronwall’s skate and past Howard for a goal with 1:01 left in the opening period. Pavelski has now scored in three straight games after having just one goal in the previous 18 contests.
He had earlier missed an opportunity to score when he attempted a pass to Ryane Clowe on a 2-on-1 that was broken up by the Detroit defense.
NOTES: Niemi had consecutive shutouts last season against Calgary and Columbus on each side of the All-Star break. … Detroit F Johan Franzen left the game with a lower-body injury in the second period. … San Jose improved to 10-1-4 at home. … Sharks F Logan Couture celebrated his 24th birthday. … Detroit assistant coach Tom Renney left the team to attend a memorial service for his late mother. … The Red Wings did not commit a penalty for the first time since Dec. 21 against Vancouver. It’s the first time ever a Sharks opponent did not commit a penalty.