Antti Niemi didn't know quite what to make of the sight of a jubilant Patrick Kane racing toward him down the ice that summer night in Philadelphia, all the while flinging equipment into the air before jumping into the then-Blackhawks goaltender's arms.

A stunned Niemi held his ground with his mask and gloves on and stick still in his hand until the rest of the Hawks joined the celebration of the team's first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years, thanks in large part to the play of an unheralded goalie who was rock-solid in his first year in the league.

"I knew that's why (Kane) was probably skating, but I wasn't sure because I didn't see the puck go in," Niemi said Tuesday before the Sharks lost to the Red Wings 3-1 in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals.

That Cup-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2010 finals, when Kane slid the puck past the Flyers' Michael Leighton, started a raucous party that culminated with a parade through the streets of Chicago with 2 million people cheering on their heroes.

"I didn't want to start celebrating before I was 100 percent sure," Niemi said. "When all the team was coming out of the bench and the (Flyers) were looking so disappointed, I knew."

Fast-forward to less than a year later, and Niemi again is in position to lead his team to an on-ice shindig. Only this time he won't be wearing the Indian head but instead a stick-munching shark on his sweater.

For Niemi, it was a long, strange trip to Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Sharks and Red Wings on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena. The odyssey took the 27-year-old from the obscurity of playing in his homeland of Finland to the Hawks to San Jose -- all in a three-year span.