Antti Niemi looked around the Chicago Blackhawks locker room and wanted to hide.

In his NHL playoff debut two years ago, Niemi gave up a soft third-period goal that opened the floodgates in a 4-1 loss to Nashville to start the postseason. As the 26-year-old rookie from Finland sat there, Niemi thought he might have just lost the series.

"I felt really overwhelmed," Niemi recalled. "I didn't want to ruin it for them. I was putting lots of pressure on myself."

A hockey team will go only as far as the goalie will carry them. Niemi settled down after the Nashville game and backstopped the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup title. Now he is shouldering that burden for the Sharks.