SAN JOSE, Calif.--Somewhere Team Finland hockey coach Erkka Westerlund had to be smiling.
Two of his three goaltenders for the Sochi Olympics squared off Saturday night at SAP Center and only allowed one goal between them. Unfortunately for the San Jose Sharks, it came off the stick of Boston defenseman Carl Soderberg and the Boston Bruins skated away with a 1-0 victory.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask made 26 saves to earn the victory over Antti Niemi, who stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced.
The lone goal came at 12:25 of the third period when Scott Hannan blocked a shot by Boston forward Loui Eriksson, only to have the puck go directly to Soderberg in front of an open net while Niemi was out of position.
Niemi had said before the game that he didn't see it as any kind of competition between himself and Rask for the starting job with Team Finland.
"But," he added, "it's always fun to play against a Finnish goalie."
This was the second narrow loss to the Bruins for San Jose. When the teams met Oct. 24, San Jose outplayed the Bruins and outshot them 39-17 only to lose when Boston forward David Krejci scored with 0.8 seconds left in the game.
The game was scoreless going into the third period, though both teams had good chances in the second period to jump ahead.
San Jose's came at 8:06 when Joe Thornton had the puck behind the net, then slipped it to Joe Pavelski just to the right of Rask, but the Boston goalie was able to stop San Jose's hottest scorer.
Then with Scott Hannan in the penalty box for holding Bruins forward Milan Lucic, Boston center Patrice Bergeron threw a nice spin move at Niemi from the slot only to have his wrist shot at 13:11 hit the right post.
The Sharks began the third period with Patrick Marleau in the penalty box for high-sticking, but San Jose may have had the best scoring chance when Tommy Wingels had the puck behind the Boston net with Marc-Edouard Vlasic streaking all alone through the slot. But Rask got his stick on the pass and the game stayed 0-0.
Later in the period, the Sharks caught a break when a shot by Bruins defenseman Torey Krug sailed over the open side of the San Jose net.
Less than a minute after the Bruins took the 1-0 lead, Niemi made his best save of the night by blocking a backhand shot by Brad Marchand as he cut diagonally in front of the net.
The Sharks were unable to beat Rask, however, though Brent Burns came close at 15:25 when he tried to jam the puck between the Boston goalie and the right post.
--Sharks rookie Eriah Hayes got his fourth consecutive start against the Bruins. Before the game, Sharks coach Todd McLellan had nothing but good things to say about Hayes, along with the standard footnote that it's been a limited look at the first-year pro, "Big body, no fear -- and what I mean by fear is not going in the corners and banging or crashing or anything like that," the coach said. "No fear of the NHL at this point. He's just ready to out and play and that's a good thing for us right now."
Then he added: "Can he maintain that energy level and that fearless level? We'll see." Hayes, who played four seasons at Minnesota State-Mankato, has been averaging 8:07 ice time on the fourth line.
(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services