Tonight’s game at Air Canada Centre well and truly started off with a bang. On the opening face off, Joe Thornton and the Maple Leafs’ Nazem Kadri exchanged several slashes that got them both tossed from the circle and ultimately ended with a fight from the wing — all this before the game ever really got started.
Everyone is already talking about this fight. Not because Thornton won it (which, let the record reflect: he did that), but because Kadri ripped out a piece of Thornton’s famous “lifestyle beard” in the process. Seriously.
Nazem Kadri rips off a chunk of Joe Thornton's beard during their fight pic.twitter.com/hR3Zyadqx6— Hockey Central (@HockeyCentraI) January 5, 2018
That immediately set the tone for the rest of the game: No one was afraid of getting dirty here.
Both teams took to battle during the first period, exchanging chances until the final minute and a half, when none other than Auston Matthews finally opened scoring. William Nylander took the puck along the wall, Jones shifted to cover his side and never saw Matthews take a shot at the open net.
No fear, though — as they were announcing Matthews’ goal in the arena, Brenden Dillon found his way to the back of the net, tying the game with under a minute to go in the first. The goal couldn’t have been timelier, keeping the Leafs from heading into the second with a lead.
The Leafs would get that lead back in the second, though. Brent Burns took a double minor, drawing blood from a high stick on Mitch Marner. The extended power play put too much pressure on San Jose and Nazem “The Barber” Kadri put the Leafs up by one.
Once again, the Sharks were able to respond. Chris Tierney found a chance in the slot, picking up a pass as goaltender Frederik Andersen attempted to play the puck, and whipping it past him to tie the game.
With a scoreless third period, the game when into an extra five minute frame of 3-on-3. Three minutes in, Chris Tierney took a high stick in the mouth from Mitch Marner, giving the Sharks a man advantage for the reminder of overtime. Somehow, the Leafs stood strong and this one went to a shootout.
After six rounds where nearly everyone failed to score, a single Sharks goal from Kevin Labanc lost to goals from Auston Matthews and Tyler Bozak.
- For as intense and highly competitive as regulation was, things slowed down immensely once overtime hit. The loser point makes out of conference overtime hit or miss, and on the first half of a back-to-back, maybe they were content with eking out at least one point.
- Chris Tierney, man. I can’t stop watching that goal. It’s all him, making the smart play and following through. He had the final shot in the shootout, as well. By all means, he beat Anderson, but the puck pinged off the inside of the post and sent everyone home.
- Speaking of the post, Patrick Marleau was successfully shut down, including his attempt during the shootout where he nailed the post, as well.
- The notoriously bad Leafs defense was able to keep the Sharks’ core at bay, though they had plenty of help from Anderson, who stopped 33 of 35 shots. The emphasis this year has been contributions throughout the line up, and that’s going to continue to be put to the test in the long run, as teams shut down the likes of Thornton, Pavelski, Couture, and Burns.
- On the flip side of that, the Sharks were unable to contain the Leafs’ heavy hitters, with goals from Matthews and Kadri, the usual suspects. Jones stopped 26 of 28 shots.
Let’s end this on a good note. Here’s the best tweets about Joe Thornton losing his beard tonight:
Patrick Marleau on seeing a chunk of Joe Thornton’s beard on the ice, post-fight: “I was like ‘I’m not going to touch it.”’— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) January 5, 2018
And when you fight Joe Thornton and pull a husky out of his beard, it just indicates he was playing with puppies earlier in the day.— Jim (@habsinottawa) January 5, 2018
Nazem Kadri said he didn’t mean to grab Joe Thornton by the beard, didn’t realize he’d removed a chunk of hair until it was in his hand - “I thought I was a hockey player, not a barber.”— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) January 5, 2018
Thornton got his beard yanked and Kadri got his hair pulled and that's all fine, but if anyone goes after Marleau's eyebrows the benches need to empty.— Down Goes Brown (@DownGoesBrown) January 5, 2018