Dallas’ Niemi Key to Snapping Flyers’ Streak

Saturday afternoon’s game between the Dallas Stars and Philadelphia Flyers was a revenge match for the Stars. Just seven days earlier, they blew a chance to ruin the Flyers’ win streak after Philadelphia rallied in the third period to crush the Stars’ chances of winning. Their second meeting was different, as Dallas defeated Philadelphia 3-1 behind goaltender Antti Niemi, who started his third straight game.

Shining Performances by Niemi

Niemi has been solid for the Stars during the first three games of a current five-game home stand at the American Airlines Center. He made 34 saves on 36 shots against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, powering the Stars, who had long awaited an offensive burst, for a 6-2 win. “He (Niemi) played an unbelievable game,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said,

“He (Niemi) played an unbelievable game,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said, according to Blackoutdallas.com. “That breakaway at the end of the first, two five on threes, and a lot of big saves. He kept us in it until we found a way to take advantage, find opportunities, and put our opportunities away. He played a heck of a game and there was no surprise that he was the first star.”

The Stars hosted the New York Rangers on Tuesday and played a solid game, hanging with the Blueshirts but fell 2-0 after Rick Nash scored a shorthanded goal and Mats Zuccarello added an empty netter. Niemi played a great game, making some highlight reel saves while stopping 28 of 29 shots.

Niemi got the call again between the pipes for the Stars against the Flyers on Saturday. They played another hard fought game and seeking to avoid dropping two in a row on home ice. Niemi played soundly, coming up big late in the game when the Stars were on the penalty kill, stopping 31 of 32 shots in a 3-1 victory.

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Niemi has been impressive at home this season and these past three games during the Stars’ home stand proved to be much of the same. After Saturday’s matinee tilt against the Flyers, Niemi improved to 7-2-1 in his past 10 starts at home. He’s also posted a 1.81 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage during that span. In a season where he and fellow goaltender Kari Lehtonen have been sharing time in the crease, these stats help give Niemi some leverage in the duel.

“Yeah he’s been great. Especially the last few games and today again. Early on, it didn’t seem like we quite had our legs yet, he was making those big saves and especially the penalty kill there. We knew they were going to get a power play eventually, and [the Flyers are] one of the best in the league so he was huge there as well.” Stars forward Tyler Sequin said after Saturday’s game, according to Mike Heika of Dallas News.

Lehtonen himself has had some great games this season, but Niemi has been quite the hot hand lately when counted upon in important games. Given his play of late, Niemi is seen as the who gives the Stars their best chance to win and could get the call in a goal for a fourth straight game when they host the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.