SAN JOSE – In a battle of two of Team Finland’s Olympic goaltenders, the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask outdueled the Sharks’ Antti Niemi in a 1-0 Boston win on Saturday at SAP Center.
Carl Soderberg scored the only goal in the third period. The Sharks failed to clear the zone, and Loui Eriksson’s shot deflected off of Scott Hannan to Soderberg’s stick. Soderberg directed it towards the open net with Dan Boyle defending at 12:25.
Rask was spectacular in his only other career game against San Jose in a 2-1 win in Boston on Oct. 24, and turned aside 26 Sharks attempts on Saturday for his fifth shutout. Boston, which lost in Anaheim and Los Angeles earlier on its road trip, has not lost three in a row all season.
Niemi was the hard-luck loser making 21 saves, including a diving stop on Brad Marchand’s partial breakaway with 6:40 to go to keep the Sharks in the game.
The Sharks have alternated wins and losses in their last eight games (4-4-0). They lost for just the second time in regulation at home (16-2-3).
Rask kept the Bruins it in early. He denied Matt Nieto on a Sharks power play four minutes in, gobbled up a Joe Pavelski redirection with 13:25 left in the opening frame, and gloved a Tommy Wingels shot from the circle on a nice setup by Justin Braun with two minutes to go.
The Sharks’ best chance came from Pavelski. Thornton deftly set up the red hot Pavelski on a backhanded dish from behind the net, but Rask held his ground on Pavelski’s point-blank chance with 12 minutes left in the middle frame.
Boston nearly took a 1-0 lead on its first power play, when Hannan went off for holding at 12:36 of the second. Patrice Bergeron’s turn-around shot from the slot bounced harmlessly off of the post, though, with 6:50 to go before the second break.
Boston won the first meeting against the Sharks at TD Garden, 2-1, behind Rask’s 38-save performance and a last-second goal by David Krejci in the third period.
The Sharks are 9-4-2 against the Eastern Conference.
San Jose failed on its one power play in the game, early in the first period on Soderberg’s boarding minor at 2:20 of the first period.
Boston was 0-for-3, including nearly four minutes of power play time in the third period, and has now gone five straight games without a man advantage goal (0-for-13).
Niemi started for the ninth time in 10 games, falling to 6-2-0 in his career against Boston and 23-10-6 this season.
Rask was playing for the first time since he was pulled against the Kings on Thursday after allowing three goals in 22 minutes. He’s 22-11-2 on the season.
The Sharks switched up their defense pairs, putting Marc-Edouard Vlasic with Jason Demers; Brad Stuart with Braun; and Boyle with Hannan.
Boston saw two players return from 15-game absences in Shawn Thornton (suspension) and Eriksson (concussion).
The Sharks will fly to Washington on Sunday, practice there on Monday, and play the Capitals on Tuesday night. The three-game road trip continues on to Florida on Thursday, and Tampa Bay next Saturday. The Sharks host Calgary on Monday, Jan. 20.