Antti Niemi was the focal point of Game 6 going into the evening at Staples Center, and although he allowed three goals, all on rebounds, that was a vast improvement on the goalie's previous start for the Sharks.

"He's always ready," forward Dany Heatley said. "In such a big game, he came up with some big saves."

On Saturday night, in Game 5, Niemi allowed three goals on four shots and was benched in favor of backup Antero Niittymaki, but head coach Todd McLellan had no compunction about going back to his regular starter for Game 6.

Niemi's teammates were all in favor of his return to the net, too. "His play sometimes reflects our play," forward Joe Pavelski said after the Sharks' morning skate. "We know what he's capable of. It's on us, we feel that."

So the Sharks' skaters were set on giving Niemi a better effort at Staples Center. "Everyone wants to play good for him," said captain Joe Thornton, who scored the game-winner in overtime Monday night.

One key to helping Niemi settle down a little, McLellan said after the game, was that San Jose played well in the first period, and then scored first, on Kyle Wellwood's goal early in the second period.

"I thought our start tonight was exactly what we needed," McLellan said. "We needed that for the goaltender, so that he could feel comfortable."