Sharp hardly surprised by play of Hawks' goaltender

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From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Chicago center
Patrick Sharp is having himself quite the postseason, and he added to it with a big goal in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday afternoon. Sharp scored the game-tying goal 7:44 into the second period and the Blackhawks went on to win, 2-1, behind Antti Niemi's 44 saves.

When it was over, Sharp, who now has 6 goals and 15 points in the playoffs, answered one question about his goal and several about Niemi, the No. 1 Star in Sunday's game, in the visitor's dressing room. Here is a portion of what he had to say:

Q: For those of us that haven't seen Antti play like this, is this what he's been doing all playoffs?

Sharp: Yeah, he's been solid all playoffs and all regular season, really. I don't know why we keep answering questions about Antti. There are no questions from our side. We know he's going to be solid and we need him to be big again in Game 2.

Q: When he comes up big for you early, because they carried the majority of the play, does that give you confidence early on?

Sharp: Definitely. It keeps us in the game. I know they scored the first goal, but he made some big saves. It could have been 2-0 or 3-0, but he kept us in it and it seemed like he got stronger and stronger as the game went on. This time of year, that's what you need to win games.

Q: How much extra push did you guys have to start the third because of how Antti played and how you guys withstood their pressure at the end of the second?

Sharp: Well, he gave us a lot of confidence, that's for sure. He made some huge saves in there and going into the third period in a tough building like this with a tie game, that's a huge opportunity for us and I thought that was our best period. He got the momentum for us and we were able to capitalize.

Q: Judging by their first period, the Sharks came off their long break pretty well, didn't they?

Sharp: Yeah, they came out flying, as expected. They're a good team and every player can skate over there. It's pretty fast-paced hockey. I thought Game 6 in Vancouver was fast, but this was a step higher and that's to be expected. We fully expect a harder game in Game 2. It's just going to get harder and harder, but I think we can feel pretty good about the win here.

Q: Is this a win you just really feel good about because it was a 60-minute war?

Sharp: It was good. It was quick. It was a fast game, that's for sure. You have to be alert all along, even when you're on the bench. There were a lot of matchup changes and fast hockey. It was a lot of fun, and now we can take a deep breath and feel good about it.

Q: Can you just talk about the rush up the ice that led to your goal?

Sharp: Yeah, it's nice to see Dunc (
Duncan Keith) get up and lead the rush. He's got good speed and he can make plays. He didn't pass it too hard; just put it nice and easy. I had time to find a lane to the net and just fire it as hard as I could.

Q: Different feeling being up 1-0 in a series isn't it?

Sharp: Yeah, it's a little different not climbing back into the series, but it doesn't change the series at all or make things any easier. We know it's going to be an uphill battle here, especially in Game 2, but we're ready for the challenge.



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