Embroiled in a tight race for playoff positioning with division rivals Los Angeles and Vancouver, San Jose's seven-game homestand bookending the All-Star break might arguably be the most critical period of their entire season. So far, so good as the Sharks opened their extended stay in the Bay Area with a 3-1 win over a tired Maple Leafs team in a game that was far more lopsided than the final score would indicate.
Patrick Marleau got off the schneid with his first goal since December 6th and Tyler Kennedy added another, in just his second game back from injury, as the Sharks outshot the Leafs 42-25, including a 17-4 margin in the second period, taking full advantage of a Toronto team that played last night in Anaheim. If it weren't for the magnificent play of James Reimer, as well as some bad luck around the net including the goal itself once again becoming dislodged to disallow a James Sheppard goal, there's little doubt the Sharks would have scored far more than twice.
In fairness to the Leafs, they had their share of bad breaks as well. Midway through the first period, James van Riemsdyk pulled Antti Niemi out of position before centering the puck only to have Matt Nieto and Marc-Edouard Vlasic combine to prevent Tyler Bozak from pushing it over the goal line. Mike Santorelli and Sam Carrick would later hit the goalpost. But all in all, the Leafs were simply outmatched by a better-rested and just flat-out better Sharks team that took control of the game in the middle frame and never let up.
- Despite Andrew Desjardins being available for this game following the birth of his son, Todd McLellan opted to keep together the "fourth" line of Tomas Hertl centering Tyler Kennedy and Tye McGinn that impressed in Arizona. It was clearly the right decision as not only did Kennedy open the scoring for San Jose, that line as a whole dominated possession and created a handful of other scoring chances that were thwarted by Reimer.
- Angry Joe made an always welcome appearance at the Tank with a stick-check to Dion Phaneuf's crotch and an argument with Nazem Kadri after the Toronto center dove to draw a penalty on Thornton. Jumbo was great during the flow of play too as that entire line set up shot in the Leafs zone on the majority of their shifts. Thornton always seems to bring his best effort to games against the Leafs.
- Jake Gardiner and Brent Burns resembled a pair of stallions attempting to outdo one another for much of this game. Neither was particularly impactful in a tangible sense but they both put on a show with brilliant individual rushes up the ice for their respective teams.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Tyler Kennedy
2nd Star: James Reimer
3rd Star: Patrick Marleau