Niemi leads Blackhawks to series opening win over Sharks

SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - Antti Niemi made 44 saves to help the Chicago Blackhawks to a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks in the first game of the NHL's Western Conference finals on Sunday.

Niemi gave up a first period goal to Jason Demers then held out the top-seeded Sharks to allow the Blackhawks to take control of the game and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Patrick Sharp tied the game in the second period and Dustin Byfuglien scored the game-winner with 6:45 remaining to give the visitors the victory.

Evgeni Nabokov made 38 saves for San Jose.

(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)