The Toronto Maple Leafs came into tonight’s game on a four game win streak, their longest of this short season, and wanting to extend it to five. The Sharks are winning sporadically, and shut out the Montreal Canadiens last night.

The Leafs wore their Reverse Retro jerseys and Börje Salming memorial patches for the final time, opening the game with 21 seconds of silence for the Maple Leafs legend.

The start was all Leafs, and they come close to opening scoring nice and early, but the fans would have to wait a while before getting to sing along to Hall & Oates.

It wasn’t an amazing first period, but shots were close and the teams were playing an even, if unexciting, game. Ilya Samsonov didn’t show any signs of coming back slow from his injury.

Nick Robertson was making a statement about being benched recently. That statement? Don’t bench me.

Erik Karlsson isn’t the superstar he once was, as a much younger Mitch Marner dances around the once big defender.

Speaking of old defenders, Mark Giordano is playing like the MArk Giordano who won the Norris Trophy way, way, back in 2019.

The Maple Leafs depth defenders are getting more ice time than they ever imagined coming out of camp, and players like Victor Mete are making the most of the chance. Taking the hit, but getting the puck away.

The first period ends with a almost goal from Karlsson, taking advantage of the funniest thing that can happen in a hockey game: A player falling over.

The first period ends scoreless, with the Leafs leading the Sharks in shots 10-7.

The second period continues much like the first, uneventful hockey, Samsonov making a save, and play continuing.

Early in the second period, the scoring starts in earnest, with Auston Matthews getting the Leafs on the board.

We think all is well, but the Matt Nieto sneaks up on us and ties the game. Damn you Matt Nieto. Well, sneaks up on an open net as Hollowell and Mete don’t quite do their jobs properly there.

A couple close calls follow up, but no more goals. Then the first penalty of the game: Nick Cicek hooks Auston Matthews, and the Leafs get their first power play. The Sharks do a good job clogging the slot, and are showing off that 91.2% penalty kill. It does the job as the Leafs don’t score, but Mark Giordano gets tripped up and as this penalty ends, the Sharks go right back into the box.

Luke Kunin, two minutes, tripping.

The Maple Leafs powerplay isn’t getting anything past this penalty kill, but we get a very big “oh shit” moment when Samsonov goes to play the puck off the boards and it bounces right back behind him and in front of the open net. Samsonsov scrambles, and Justin Holl is there to help, and Timo Meier isn’t able to capitalize on this mistake.

The power play ends without a goal, still tied at ones.

An amazing sequence gets played out in front of the net with Aaron Dell making some amazing saves, the Sharks blocking shots and the Leafs coming out of the Sharks end incredibly frustrated after not being able to score on that chance. How?

Samsonov, when not making bad board passes, is definitely keeping the Leafs in this game.

The Leafs scramble around the Sharks end, players dive for the puck, and it all ends with Michael Bunting getting boarded, and a whistle blows - for Auston Matthews smacking the puck out of the air to Mitch Marner. Sure, Okay.

Anyway, whistle, face off, second period ends with a 1-1 tie. The third period will start just as the second began, all tied up.

Meanwhile, on the Leafs bench....

The third period begins with word that Calle Järnkrok is not returning, and word that Mitch Marner only has 20 minutes to get a point to tie the franchise record point streak at 18 games.

It’s William Nylander who makes the most plays to start things off, teaming with John Tavares to get a couple close chances.

Aaron Dell is standing on his head this period, making great plays to keep Nylander, Matthews, Bunting, Marner, and Robertson from scoring.

Michael Bunting and Nick Cicek have words in front of the Sharks bench, which results in two Sharks pushing and shoving Bunting into the boards as the refs step in, and Mark Giordano has none of this nonsense from the rookie Cicek, grabbing him and shaking some sense into him.

In the Sharks zone, Marc-Eduard Vlasic springs the puck loose and sends it down ice to a free Tomas Hertl, but Victor Mete gets make and knocks the puck loose, keeping the game tied.

The Sharks are picking up their offensive game midway through the third, testing Ilya Samsonov, but the returning goaltender tends the goal very well despite the Sharks uptick in offense.

With five minutes to go, William Nylander gets tripped as he crosses the blueline into the Sharks zone, and the Leafs get a third chance to score a power play goal (or get a shot), and Marner gets a boost as the clock ticks down on his scoring streak.

The Leafs work had to get the puck to Mitch Marner. They pass, pass, Auston Matthews dives for the puck and stretches out the stick to keep it in, but the Sharks penalty kill is working just as hard. The Leafs call a time out with 1:08 in the powerplay to regroup.

The time out doesn’t work, the Leafs don’t score on the power play, and we’re three minutes of no goals away from overtime.

Just to shut me up for that comment, the duo of Alexander Kerfoot and Pierre Engvall work together to get the game leading goal. Kerfoot shoots for the rebound and Pierre Engvall is in the right place to make it 2-1 Maple Leafs.

The Sharks call a time out, and as soon as they get possession of the puck after the face off, Dell runs to the bench for the extra attacker. Whenever the Leafs get the puck they give it to Mitch. He passes to Bunting on the empty net, but the pass is interrupted. He shoots again but hits the post. Finally, third time is the charm as he gets the empty net to make it an 18 game point streak, tying the Maple Leafs record with Darryl Sittler (1978) and Eddie Olczyk (1989-90).

Marner gets a standing ovation after that, and we’re back into play with an empty Sharks net, but the Sharks can’t do it with six skaters, and the Maple Leafs are now on a five game win streak.

Ilya Samsonov missed almost four weeks of game time, but came right back to where he left off, saves 23 of 24 shots, and hey Pierre Engvall scored! It wasn’t pretty to start, but it was a good Leafs win, and we have two days off until the Leafs head to Florida for a few days. We start with Tampa Bay on Saturday night, then it’s off to Texas and the Stars on Tuesday the sixth.

I hope you all enjoyed the game, see you next time, and Go Leafs Go!