Niemi, Couture lift surging Sharks over Rangers

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NEW YORK (AP) - A goal that didn’t count in the Sharks’ victory over the New York Rangers garnered more attention than the one that made the difference in surging San Jose’s latest win.

Antti Niemi stopped 41 shots for his fourth shutout, and Logan Couture’s first-period, short-handed goal stood up as the Sharks beat the Rangers 1-0 Sunday for their sixth straight win.

New York thought it had the game tied with 3:15 left in the second period.

During a stoppage, all four officials gathered at the scorer’s table, and a lengthy video review was conducted in Toronto to see if Carl Hagelin’s stuff attempt at the left post nudged the puck over the line.

Numerous replays failed to show the puck behind Niemi, who blocked the view, but one zoomed-in and enhanced picture appeared to show the puck disappear behind the post - drawing a huge cheer from the crowd.

Those yells turned to boos when it was announced there was no conclusive evidence of a goal. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault called over referee Dan O’Halloran for an explanation he didn’t really seem to accept.

“It doesn’t matter what I think. I don’t make the decisions,” Vigneault said in a quiet tone. “This is not me saying this, but some of my friends say that they make it up as they go along. I’m just going to leave it at that.

“The replay that I saw, you can’t see the puck. Maybe I can assume that if you can’t see the puck it is under the goaltender’s pad and in the goal. It has to be conclusive and I guess they felt it wasn’t, so there is nothing you can do about it.”

Niemi and the Sharks defense were the difference, unlike in the first meeting between the teams, won 9-2 by San Jose on Oct. 8. Niemi, who has 27 career NHL shutouts, was particularly strong during a Rangers power play early in the third.

San Jose, tied with Anaheim atop the Pacific Division, is 11-2-1 in its past 14. In a 12-game stretch against Eastern Conference opponents that ends Tuesday at home versus Florida, the Sharks are 9-1-1.

“Nemo was unbelievable,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. “That was maybe his best game all year. He stole this one for us.”

Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves but was denied in his first attempt to set the Rangers record with his 302nd victory. He equaled Mike Richter’s mark Friday at Winnipeg, but couldn’t hide his disappointment in this loss.

“This loss is so painful in so many ways,” he said. “We had so many open nets, so many chances to get back in this game but we just couldn’t get it in. Then you look at their goal, to give it up on our own power play, and that’s the only goal. It just adds to the frustration.”

New York, which lost for the third time in four games, dropped one point behind Philadelphia in the Metropolitan Division race and into an Eastern Conference wild-card position.

“We definitely understand how important every point is,” Lundqvist said. “We played a really strong game against one of the best teams in the league, but it’s hard to be positive about a lot of things when you don’t win. Right now it’s about points, it’s not about playing great against good teams.”

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