Joe Thornton's(notes) forceful performance, Dan Boyle's(notes) two assists and Patrick Marleau's(notes) gutty game will all get their due. But Niemi was the stealth MVP of their 3-2 Game 7 victory against the Detroit Red Wings, stopping 38 of 40 shots. When Detroit took over the game in the second period, Niemi stopped 16 of 17. Should he have flagged down either backhander by Henrik Zetterberg(notes) or Pavel Datsyuk(notes)? Perhaps. But otherwise, he was the foundation for the series clincher.
The Sharks winger accomplished two things in the first period: He scored the opening goal to give the Sharks and their crowd a jolt, and he scored on the power play, giving the Sharks their first tally with the man advantage since Game 3 - which to the surprise of no one was their last victory before Game 7. He also converted Boyle's pass for a hard shot that made Jimmy Howard(notes) cough up a rebound, leading to Patrick Marleau's game-winner.
No. 3 Star: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Datsyuk's inspiring, magical postseason ended with his 15th point of the playoffs on a nasty backhander that beat Niemi. Battling through a hand injury, he competed to the end.
Honorable mention: Henrik Zetterberg scored his third of the playoffs. … Logan Couture(notes) scored an unassisted goal to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead. … Boyle had two assists, while Thornton brilliantly set up Setoguchi's first-period goal. … Ryane Clowe(notes) returned for the Sharks, skating 19:26 and finishing with 2 shots and 4 hits.
Did you know? Teams losing the first three games of a series failed to force a Game 7 in 112 consecutive series between 1976 and 2010. Beginning with the Philadelphia Flyers breaking that streak last year against Boston, three teams have done it in the past seven opportunities (Philadelphia, vs. Boston; Chicago vs. Vancouver; Detroit vs. San Jose). [NHL]
Dishonorable mention: The Wings had their injury problems. Johan Franzen(notes) didn't play because of a lingering injury. Todd Bertuzzi(notes) left Game 7 after his head collided with Dany Heatley's(notes) helmet. Danny Cleary(notes) was accidentally taken out by teammate Jiri Hudler(notes) and did not return. … Heatley had one goal in the series. … The Wings were 0-for-4 on the power play.
Conn Smythe Watch: 1. Ryan Kesler(notes), Vancouver Canucks; 2. Martin St. Louis(notes), Tampa Bay Lightning; 3. Tim Thomas(notes), Boston Bruins; 4. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks; 5. Patrice Bergeron(notes), Boston Bruins; 6. Ryane Clowe, San Jose Sharks; 7. Sean Bergenheim(notes), Tampa Bay Lightning; 8. Vinny Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning; 9. Devin Setoguchi, San Jose Sharks; 10. Roberto Luongo(notes), Vancouver Canucks.