Antti Niemi, Winning Goalie, Says 'I Never Felt Good'
"The only good thing is we won," said Niemi.
This is what happens in a 6-5 hockey game, especially the rare shootout on the game's biggest stage. "Shootout at the OK Corral," Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville called it.
You'd think Niemi would take solace in playing a perfect third period, when he stopped all six shots -- including a pair from point blank range in final minutes after he changed his mask.
"I never felt good in this game," he said.
Not even in the third period?
"Never," said Niemi. "I didn't feel any better in the third period."
He had reason to. After all, on the other end of the ice, Flyers starting goalie Michael Leighton was pulled with less than five minutes remaining in the second period. Even if Philadelphia head coach Peter Laviolette wants to spin the decision as an attempt at shaking up his team and shifting momentum, Niemi had to appreciate Quenneville not doing the same.
"I thought the goals we gave up," said Quenneville, "our coverage wasn't as sharp as it needed to be. They put a lot of pucks at the net. They created a lot of confusion. We have to be sharper in that area. I wasn't looking at our goalie to make a change. I thought Antti gave us a chance and did what he had to do, especially in the third period."
Niemi wasn't so sure.
"I did not think about the Flyers' change," said Niemi of the switch from Leighton to newly-healthy backup Brian Boucher. "I was too busy thinking about my own game and trying to figure out a way to fix it."
According to Niemi, he never did. However, the Finnish goaltender did see a bright side.
"I did not play well and I never felt comfortable for some reason," said Niemi, "but we still won. That's a good deal. Now I have to get my game back for Monday. I don't have a big problem with the goals I gave up. My problem was not feeling comfortable."
"Antti made the big saves when we needed him to in the third period," said Keith. "On the four goals we gave up, he didn't have much of a chance. Still, it says a lot about his ability to move forward that he shook off the goals and played his best in the third."