The Maple Leafs kicked off a west coast road trip looking to end a two game losing streak, and the San Jose Sharks held a heart-warming pregame ceremony for one of its former players. Our writers are not sure which Leaf was being honoured, but our investigators have identified two former Sharks in Dominic Moore and Roman Polak as likely targets. Who else would it be? Our sources indicate that Patrick Marleau may have appeared in a Sharks uniform at some point, but Polak led San Jose to the cup finals in every season that he played for them. Our investigation will continue.
The first line looked awfully impressive in the early going, and impressive puck control down low led to an Auston Matthews wrist shot from the right hashmark. The post made the save, but this line looked poised to spend the majority of the evening in the offensive zone.
On their next shift, Matthews used his speed to generate a takeaway in the offensive zone, before sliding the puck to Zach Hyman in the slot. Martin Jones made a blocker save to keep the game scoreless, then another shortly after on a hard wrist shot off the stick of Matthews. This line was buzzing throughout the first half of the period, but a Matthews turnover led to a dangerous chance the other way. Logan Couture’s shot created a big rebound, but Matthews stick-checked the puck away just in time. 0-0 through 10 minutes.
This trio’s hard work finally paid off with eight minutes to go in the frame. William Nylander streaked down the left wing, dashing around defenders before delivering the puck to Nikita Zaitsev at the right point. Zaitsev’s shot hit Hyman in front of the net, and Matthews quickly kicked the puck up to his stick before sending it into the back of the net. 1-0 Maple Leafs on Matthews’ 9th of the season.
The Sharks responded by creating plenty of chances in Toronto’s end, and the fourth line of Matt Martin, Dominic Moore, and Connor Brown looked completely outmatched. Martin took a blatant tripping penalty after a long shift in the defensive end, and although the Sharks were not able to capitalize, the Leafs were playing with fire. Andreas Borgman and Roman Polak were hemmed in the defensive zone multiple times throughout the first, and Kevin Labanc just missed tying the game following a bad turnover from William Nylander.
The Bozak line stood out in the first in terms of shot attempt differential, and Martin Jones made a pair of nice saves on Mitch Marner in the last minute of play. Bozak was gifted a grade-A scoring chance on the rebound, but the puck bounced right over his stick. 1-0 Leafs after One.
The Leafs picked up where they left off in the first, surrendering too many close chances against. Chris Tierney was sent on a breakaway just a minute and a half in, but failed to get a strong shot off with Polak chasing him down. The rugged defenceman’s speed was exposed throughout the first half of this game, and he was no match in a footrace with Mikkel Boedker. Toronto maintained a 1-0 lead through the first five minutes, but the fourth line and third pairing looked terrible.
The Sharks finally solved Andersen eight minutes in to the second. Nazem Kadri won a defensive zone faceoff, but the Leafs did not get the puck out, and Joe Thornton sent the puck back to Tim Heed at the right point. Heed’s shot deflected of deflection-specialist Joe Pavelski in front, and Andersen was given no chance. Leafs 1, Sharks 1.
The rest of the period was dominated by the Sharks, as Toronto managed just three shots in the second. Shots were 24-10 for San Jose after two, with shot attempts at 45-34. However, plenty of San Jose’s chances were coming from the point, and Brent Burns was filtering shot attempt after shot attempt towards the net. The Leafs actually carried a slight edge in terms of expected goals, even though the fourth line did not manage a single shot attempt through two periods. 1-1 After Two.
Just when it looked like this game could not get any worse for the fourth line, Moore took a bad cross-checking penalty by retaliating for a rough hit. Heed blasted a perfect point shot to the top corner on the ensuing powerplay, and the Sharks boasted their first lead of the hockey game four minutes in. Sharks 2, Leafs 1.
Shot after shot came at Andersen throughout the first half of the third, and Toronto failed to generate anything remotely close to a scoring chance. Martin Jones could have taken a nap during the first ten minutes, and Connor Brown made the situation even worse for the fourth line by taking an offensive zone penalty eight minutes in. Andersen bailed his team out yet again, and the Leafs carried a chance at tying up this game despite being incredibly outplayed.
Toronto’s offence finally began to create chances throughout the last five minutes of the third, but Jones was up to the challenge in net. Mike Babcock pulled the goalie early, and Joel Ward took advantage of an empty net by scoring his first of the season with just over two minutes remaining. Sharks 3, Leafs 1.
Bozak was glued to the bench towards the end of this game, and Marleau took his place on the third line. Kadri made things interesting by deflecting Borgman’s shot into the net for his 7th of the season with a minute to go, but the Leafs could not find a way to tie things up with the goalie pulled. Final Score: Sharks 3, Leafs 2.