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Recap: Auston Matthews is back! Maple Leafs win 5-3 over the Sharks.

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Auston Matthews was great in his first game back from injury, scoring twice and adding an assist.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s an intro.

Matthews is playing with Johnsson and Kapanen... wild!

Friedman put away his insider hat and wore his analyst hat about the Nylander situation again and people got mad... go figure!

The Sharks coach that recently got thrown from a game said something salty and mad today about Kadri... so weird!

Okay enough idle chit chat, let’s get to the game!

FIRST PERIOD

The Leafs start the game with the Tavares line, and the puck is dropped!

[20:00 to 15:00]

The game starts with an icing. DRINK!

Matthews gets his first shift, which to me was the most remarkable for a nice backcheck by Johnsson.

Marner comes on for their second shift and he draws a penalty, we go the PP with our PP1 of doom! It starts off rough, but once they get possession back they set up in the Sharks end and OH MY GOODNESS I WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO THAT PUCK MOVEMENT! Marner with the cross ice pass to Matthews, who freezes Dell because duh but wires it to Tavares for the easiest tap in goal he’ll ever score. 1-0 Leafs!

Kadri gets a good wrist shot off a rush, but it got gloved by Dell. Not long after the Sharks come back for a 2-on-1 but Dermott played it brilliantly and broke up the pass. Matthews then came back danced into the Sharks zone, but fanned on the shot.

The game’s becoming a bit of a track meet.

[15:00 to 10:00]

The Sharks establish some offensive zone pressure but can’t get a good chance of it. On a split shift, Tavares and Marner wound up with Ennis and they looked pretty dangerous for a while.

The line with Matthews and the two former Marlies star looked pretty great, hemming in the Sharks. Dermott played a big role in it too, in fact he’s looked great at pushing play in the right direction so far this game. Oh how I’ve missed Matthews’ magic stick handling...

With Matthews’ out to take an offensive zone faceoff following a Sharks’ icing, Johnsson took a dumb interference penalty off the draw and it puts the Leafs on the PK.

[10:00 to 5:00]

The Sharks get settled in off a Hainsey giveaway, but after a little scramble in front of the net Freddie covers it up. Off the faceoff Andersen has to make a flurry of very tough saves, but make those saves he did. BOOOO! On a passing attempt in front Dermott got a piece of it, but wound up putting it on a tee for Hertl to score in the gaping net. 1-1 tie game.

Thankfully, Auston Matthews is a Leaf as he draws a penalty not long after the faceoff. Interestingly, Babcock started the post PK shift with Matthews on with Tavares and Marner. Since it was off a faceoff you know it was intentional.

Come on Babs, that’s just mean.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Leafs start the power play with their top unit, and only a handful of seconds into the power play it goes Marner > Rielly > Matthews > PING! 2-1 Leafs.

Omar has the inside scoop on the Leafs plan heading into that power play:

Unfortunately the Leafs followed up that shift being hemmed in their own zone with Kadri’s line on the ice, but most of the shots the Sharks generated came from the point.

Oh no, Johnsson’s down after a collision in front of the benches as both teams were changing. Looks like Labanc checked him and his ribs caught the edge of an open door. He’s up now and looks to be fine, but he’ll probably have a big bruise tomorrow.

[5:00 to Fin]

Right off a defensive zone draw, Kadri hits Pavelski in the face with a high stick... and the Sharks have their chance to tie it up with their second power play.

The Sharks start the PP with some good puck movement, but didn’t get a shot from it. Hainsey had a chance to clear the puck from behind the net and he.... shot it off the back of the net? Millen called it a fluke but he wasn’t hit or blocked or deflected at all, he just straight up shot it into the net. Not long after Pavelski winds up with a chance in front but Freddie covers it up in close. Off the faceoff the Sharks AGAIN put on their own passing clinic but Freddie makes a great save on Kane in close.

Kadri gets out of the box and heads on a breakaway, but he rings it off the post for what feels like the fourth straight game. Tough luck, Naz.

In the dying seconds of the period, the Leafs score another off a beauty rush. Hyman carried it up ice with Tavares on his one side, and Marner on his other (after he had to run to the bench to get a new stick first). Hyman > Marner > Tavares for the second easiest tap in goal he’s ever scored. Third assist to the Leafs’ trainer who got Marner the stick so fast! 3-1 Leafs.

Thus ends an eventful first period where both teams showcased a lot of skill, especially on their power play chances. The difference so far is AUSTON MATTHEWS IS A LEAF! SO IS JOHN TAVARES! AND MITCH MARNER!

First Period Thoughts

That was a fun period of hockey. Mostly because Matthews is back, but also because it had lots of good plays and scoring chances in which the Leafs came out of it with a two goal lead!

The period ended at 5v5 with a dead tie in shot attempts and scoring chances. The Sharks edge the Leafs in PP shots and chances.... probably because Toronto scored so quickly into both of their opportunities.

Courtesy of Natural Stat Trick

SECOND PERIOD

And we’re back!

[20:00 to 15:00]

The Leafs start the second period with the Tavares line, because why not? Tavares promptly draws a penalty after they battle for the puck along the boards. Millen says “the Leafs draw a lot of penalties with their speed”, which leads me to believe he is part ostrich and had his head buried in the earth for the past two weeks.

So the Leafs go back to the PP, and they decide to be merciful on the Sharks by starting PP2.

[Narrator: it was not merciful]

Gardiner with the point shot, Johnsson with the really smart play to put his back to the net and make a deft touch pass to Marleau to put it home the gaping net. 4-1 Leafs. Poor Dell... he might need a reboot and a lot more RAM to keep up.

Fun fact: Marleau has now scored a goal against all 31 franchises currently in the NHL.

Following the tradition of the game, the Leafs follow up by taking their own penalty as Dermott gets called for interference. Sharks get a chance to make it a two goal game with their dangerous looking power play.

[15:00 to 10:00]

The Leafs PK looks much better this time, as they clear it a couple of times and create a scoring chance with Zaitsev, obviously, taking a blast from the top of the circle to at least create an offensive zone faceoff. Unfortunately, the Sharks still score with Pavelski maybe banked it off of Freddie on a one timer with only one second remaining on the Dermott penalty. 4-2 Leafs.

Babcock the mad scientist starts the post-PK shift with Matthews out with Kadri and Marleau, because why not? They do get a scoring chance, but Dell’s firewall stopped it.

After that the Sharks look like the more dangerous team at even strength though, hemming the Leafs in on a couple of shifts with no real counter from the Leafs.

Thank goodness for Kapanen. He cancelled an icing with his speed, helped create a turnover to Matthews, who fed it back to Kapanen for a great chance that Dell stopped. Not long after the Matthews line came back into the offensive zone, with Johnsson feeding Dermott coming in from the point but he wired it wide. The shift continues with the fourth line filtering on. They can’t get a goal from it, but they sure looked great.

[10:00 to 5:00]

Unfortunately, the next few shifts looked not so great. The Leafs got hemmed in again for some good chances against. Until, again, the Matthews line hopped on the ice and Kapanen AGAIN created some zone entries and offensive zone time using his speed.

The Leafs’ second fastest player, which is obviously Josh Leivo, followed suit and cancelled an icing by outracing the Sharks defender. It wound up leading to a Sharks icing as the Leafs look to stay out of their own zone for a while.

[Narrator: they did not succeed]

Right off the faceoff the Sharks controlled the puck and Burns got a good chance cutting to the net on a rush. A moment later Freddie had to make a nifty little glove save.

Again, the Leafs get hemmed in their own zone with Freddie having to make a few saves. The Leafs have done little except clear the puck and maybe get the puck in the offensive zone for a few seconds before the Sharks pour it on again. Freddie’s up to 22 saves in the game.

[5:00 to Fin]

More of the same for the next minute and a half. I can’t remember the last time the Leafs had a good scoring chance, or more than 10 seconds in the Sharks zone. Even if the Sharks ice the puck, they’ve won the faceoff and gone straight back to the Leafs’ zone. The last minute of the period saw the Tavares line almost score another late goal, but the period ends with the Leafs holding a 4-2 lead.

Second Period Thoughts

The period started strong for the first half, but the second half was dominated by the Sharks. The Leafs stopped getting any offense going of their own while the Sharks hemmed them in and got tons of shots and chances of their own. You can see where it all started going wrong too:

Courtesy of Natural Stat Trick

THIRD PERIOD

We’re back! Hopefully with more offense from the Leafs.

[20:00 to 15:00]

The Tavares line starts the period on the right foot, with Hyman’s trademark hustle drawing a penalty in the first minute. Back to the PP the Leafs go, where they’re 3/3 this game.

The top PP unit got some good chances in the first minute but had nothing to show for it. The best chance came from a Rielly point shot with Tavares and Kadri right there for the juicy rebound, but couldn’t get it past Dell.

The second unit comes on for the rest of the power play, but they couldn’t get anything going. Right after it ends Marner had a clear breakaway where he tried to sneak it through Dell’s five hole, but Pickard he ain’t.

Some poor passing and turnovers when they had easy possession led to the Sharks again hemming in the Leafs. At one point there were two Sharks alone in front, and only a great desperation play by Rielly broke up a very dangerous scoring chance.

[15:00 to 10:00]

The Leafs finally get some extended offensive zone time thanks to Marner and Hyman causing turnovers and intercepting clearing attempts. The Leafs use the momentum to defending a frantic rush the other way and icing the puck as a result. They’ve been a good line in the third period, along with the Matthews line. I know I know, that’s some hard hitting journalism.

Dermott makes a great defensive play after his stick exploded at the point. Evander Kane had a chance at a partial break but Dermott hustled back and, without a stick, just muscled him off the puck.

This period has been much better as the Leafs have closed the gap in shot attempts and scoring chances.

[10:00 to 5:00]

We have goal for the good guys! After the Sharks iced the puck, the Matthews line comes on for the draw. They win the faceoff and almost score right off the bat, but retrieve the puck after and follow up for a Johnsson snipe over Dell’s shoulder. Actually, replay shows that Matthews had a very deft tip to get it over Dell for the goal, his second of the game and third point. 5-2 Leafs.

Andersen has been a calming presence while pucks are flying around him. After years of the Leafs’ netminders looking as bad as Carolina/Philadelphia/Calgary/Arizona have been recently, it’s nice to have some peace of mind.

What’s not good is the Sharks getting lowkey dirty now that the game’s seemingly out of hand, as Kadri seemed to be favouring his hand after getting a healthy slash.

[5:00 to Fin]

The Sharks create a chance on a bit of a broken rush, but Freddie stood tall once more. The game seems to have settled into both teams kind of accepting the ultimate result. Like they’re still trying, but it’s not the high flying affair of the first period or the desperate offensive push by the Sharks in the second period.

You’re also seeing more of the Leafs’ third and fourth lines with the game in hand.

So of course all that said, and the Sharks score with a couple of minutes left. Ozzie simply got beat by his man and Donskoi passed it to the streaking Karlsson (no, not that one. The other one) for the tip and goal. 5-3 Leafs.

Dell gets pulled with two minutes left as the Sharks have some urgency again. The Leafs weather the storm and hold on for the 5-3 win!

BUDS ALL DAY!

Poll

Who was your player of the game?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    Auston Matthews - 2 goals, 1 assist
    (328 votes)
  • 23%
    Mitch Marner - 3 assists
    (133 votes)
  • 1%
    John Tavares - 2 goals
    (8 votes)
  • 16%
    Frederik Andersen - 38 saves
    (92 votes)
561 votes total Vote Now