It took one period for the Sharks to assert their dominance in this hockey game and only a half period to give it right back, but San Jose would have the last laugh as goals from Brad Stuart and Logan Couture earned the win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Despite starting slowly in the shot department, the Sharks totally dominated the first period. They hemmed the Leafs in their zone for extended periods and spent very little time in their own end early on, but it wasn't until the Leafs' face-punchers got involved in the action that the momentum really started to shift. It just didn't shift the way Randy Carlyle would have liked.
Andrew Desjardins laid a big hit on Jerred Smithson in the neutral zone which got the attention of one Frazer McLaren, but all McLaren got for his trouble was a roughing minor which put the Sharks on their first powerplay of the game. While San Jose looked dangerous, they only generated one shot on goal (their first of the game over seven minutes in).
But the Sharks' resident face puncher made the biggest impact in the first period as former Leaf Mike Brown deflected a Jason Demers shot through Reimer's five-hole (Reimer? I hardly kn-- never mind) to make it 1-0. Andrew Desjardins picked up the secondary assist on the goal for his fifth helper of the season.
Patrick Marleau followed that up with a great chance just a minute later as he dangled his way to the front of the net for a shot on goal. Reimer got great body positioning on Marleau and was able to take away any chance of a goal.
The Desjardins line was not done yet, though. Brown was absolutely buzzing in the offensive zone and Desjardins had a couple of shots on goal that could have turned in to goals had it not been for Reimer. It became evident early on how the Leafs have won hockey games this year: Goal tending and a lot of luck. That'll take you places.
Giving the Sharks extended opportunities on the powerplay? That'll get you in trouble. The Leafs handed the Sharks 1:17 to do work on a 5-on-3 powerplay and Joe Thornton made them pay.
The Sharks have a habit of passing the puck around the offensive zone a lot when they have a two-man advantage and not doing a lot of shooting; that can be very frustrating when it doesn't work, but when it does it looks like a stroke of genius. Jumbo made it look brilliant as he played point guard long enough to get the Leafs out of position and deposited his fifth goal of the season when he got the puck back in front of the net.
But the Leafs would strike back on a powerplay of their own early in the second period. After killing off a penalty to start the period, Dan Boyle put the Leafs right back on the man-advantage. The Sharks killed a minute and a half before giving up a 2-on-1 rush where Mason Raymond beat Niemi on a dribbler to make it 2-1.
The Sharks weren't done crapping themselves in the second period as Logan Couture went to the box for high-sticking and Phil Kessel capitalized to tie the game. Toronto was dominating the play in the first half of the second period while San Jose looked sluggish and disinterested, particularly in their end of the ice.
Brad Stuart gave San Jose the lead again after the Sharks spent two shifts and over a minute in the Leafs' zone. Toronto was unable to clear the puck after multiple attempts and finally paid for it after a centering pass from Brad Stuart deflected off of something and went in courtesy of a Pavelski screen. The goal was initially credited to Pavelski, but was later changed. Did I mention how well the Desjardins line played tonight? Yeah, they started the zone time that led to this goal.
Couture iced the game with an empty-netter with 1:24 to go to secure the Sharks' sixth-straight victory.
- The Sharks were outhit 56-19. Kind of makes me wonder if the hit stat is worth anything.
- The Sharks outshot the Leafs 41-30. That might mean something.
- All three of Brad Stuart's goals this season have been game-winners.
- The much maligned Mike Brown (rightly so, I think) had a hell of a game tonight. His first period in particular was very strong as he was absolutely buzzing in the Leafs' end. He actually looked like he could play hockey. It was nice.
- Despite his best efforts, Joe Thornton scored again. He has five goals this season, just two less than the number he had last year in 48 games. He has played 27 this year. GOAL SCORING MACHINE.
- If it weren't for Reimer the Sharks would have easily scored five or six goals in this hockey game. He is good.
- The Leafs are not good, evidenced by the Desjardins line giving them the business all night.
- Brad Stuart had five shots tonight. See above.
- Hertl had a couple of real good chances on net, including a one-on-one right in front of Reimer that he threw over the net.
- Both of the goals Niemi gave up were on the powerplay, but the first one was really crappy. He'll want that one back.
- The real test comes Thursday as the Sharks will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. That should be a lot of fun.