SAN JOSE – Matt Nieto might not be the biggest guy on the Sharks’ roster, but he might have the biggest you-know-whats.
Late in the third period of the Sharks’ win over Nashville, Nieto held his ground in Shea Weber’s shooting lane with San Jose protecting a 1-0 lead and on the penalty kill. That’s the same Shea Weber who had his slap shot clocked at 108.5 miles-per-hour at the most recent NHL All-Star skills competition.
Nieto appeared to take the brunt of the blast with his left calf with 3:47 left in regulation, and immediately crumpled to the ground. He struggled to get upright again, but managed to do so and even finished his shift.
It didn’t go unnoticed after the game, a 2-0 win, the Sharks' fourth in their last five games.
[RECAP: Hertl, Niemi rise up in Sharks' win over Preds]
“Weber has got the shot. If [Nieto is] going to sit down there like that and take it – it was exciting,” Joe Pavelski said. “Your team definitely builds off of something like that. It’s not easy.”
Todd McLellan said: "That takes a lot of courage, because that guy as we know can fire that puck, and he got all of that. … Give Matt credit for sacrificing for his teammates and for the win."
Nieto joked about blocking the shot on Twitter after the game.
“A lesson well learned tonight.... do NOT block a Shea Weber slap shot,” he wrote.
The Sharks penalty kill continues to show signs of improvement. It still sits at just 23rd in the league at 80.1 percent, but has allowed just one power play goal against in the last four games.
[KURZ: Rewind: Third line, Niemi clutch in important win for Sharks]
San Jose has been shorthanded just eight times over those four games, including twice against Nashville, which makes it a whole lot easier.
“We only needed to kill twice, so that’s got to continue,” Pavelski said.
So do the type of selfless plays that Nieto made against Nashville.
Pavelski said: “The sacrifice has to be there on a nightly basis, and it’s awesome to see.”