Nieto's late goal leads Sharks past Flyers 2-1
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) One game after Matt Nieto broke a long drought with an empty-net goal, he delivered one that was much more important.
Nieto scored the tiebreaking goal with 11.5 seconds remaining to lead the San Jose Sharks to their first consecutive wins in more than a month with a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
''Even though it didn't seem like much, it was huge confidence-wise,'' Nieto said of the empty-net goal Saturday. ''You know, they come in bunches and I've been patient all year, sticking to my game. I'm glad to see it's paying off.''
Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored and Antti Niemi made 28 saves for the Sharks, who last won back-to-back games Oct. 26-28 against Anaheim and Colorado.
Both two-game winning streaks followed skids of four games as San Jose has gotten off to a slow start this season.
''This team has always been streaky,'' forward Tommy Wingels said. ''When we win a couple, streaks build on top of each other. This team can reel off five, six, seven, eight in a row. That's what we're going to try to do here.''
Sean Couturier scored for the Flyers, who have dropped eight straight road games for their longest skid away from home since March 1998.
Steve Mason made 25 saves as Philadelphia lost for the ninth time in 10 games.
''I think we controlled the game and played one of our best games of the year,'' captain Claude Giroux said. ''The results won't show how we played. I think we are in a tough stretch right now. When things like this happen with 12 seconds to go, we have to stick together.''
Nieto forced a turnover at center ice on the game-winning play, leading Patrick Marleau in on a partial breakaway. Mason made the initial save but was knocked out of the play by teammate Braydon Coburn as Wingels went for the rebound.
Nieto then knocked the loose puck into the empty net for his second goal in two games. He hadn't scored since the season opener before getting one Saturday against Anaheim.
''When you're not scoring, the general rule of thumb is go to the net and good things will happen,'' Nieto said. ''I know I tried to get there as fast as I can and luckily the puck bounced right there for me.''
Mason had no chance to stop Nieto's game-winner as he was far out of position.
''They got two or three whacks at it and I was able to make the first save but was put in a position where I couldn't get back and make the second or third save,'' he said. ''So the second or third one went in. We just made a mistake at the wrong time.''
The Sharks played most of the third period without center Logan Couture, who went to the dressing room after a hard collision with Michael Raffl and did not return. Couture went through the concussion protocol and will be re-evaluated Wednesday.
The Flyers got off to a fast start on the road for a change, controlling the play in the opening period and taking the lead when Couturier beat Niemi with a shot from the top of the circle on a power play early in the first. That marked the first time in 12 road games this season that Philadelphia scored the first goal.
The Sharks found their footing in the second and finally got the equalizer late when Vlasic capped a pretty passing sequence with his third goal of the season. Marleau started it with a pass out of the defensive zone to Couture near center ice. Couture then fed Wingels along the boards and he quickly fed a rushing Vlasic, who beat Mason with a wrist shot.
NOTES: The Sharks have one loss and two ties in their past 16 games against Philadelphia. ... F Vinny Lecavalier was a healthy scratch for the first time in his 16-year career after recording no goals and two assists the past 12 games. ... Philadelphia D Michael Del Zotto also was scratched. ... The Sharks sent D Matt Tennyson back to Worcester of the AHL.