Before the match began, there was a ceremonial puck drop with long-time Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov who was accompanied by Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau to take the face-off for a late 2000s Sharks nostalgia.
But there was no time to linger, and the fireworks began at puck drop.
Last time these two teams met, back in January, there was an altercation between Joe Thornton and Nazem Kadri, that resulted in the Leafs forward taking a handful of Thornton’s beard after their fight. It’s something that the Sharks didn’t seem to forget, but it led to a quick and needless penalty by Barclay Goodrow seconds into the game. Off the faceoff, Goodrow attempted several times to engage Kadri in a fight and Kardi refused, ending with a roughing penalty for Goodrow.
Overall, it was a game that was expectedly evenly matched, with the Sharks averaging a 49 percent Corsi for (CF%) in all situations. The Sharks out-shot the Leafs 45 to 34; however, the Leafs were able to create 36 scoring chances, which allowed for them to stay in the game, even as the Sharks put on the pressure and took a 66 CF% at 5-on-5 in the third period.
Although both teams were able to generate over 30 scoring chances and over ten high danger chances, it helps to receive some good fortune. Lady luck shined her light on the Leafs first when John Tavares opened the scoring by shooting at Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s skates, which redirected the puck through the five-hole of Martin Jones.
For the Sharks, their luck came minutes later when Erik Karlsson innocently fired the puck into the Leafs’ zone. A routine play took a fortunate bounce, and while everyone in the area was caught off-guard, Kevin Labanc was there to put it into the Leafs’ net with little problem to tie it at one.
Once the dust settled on the odd start to the game, the Leafs were able to control the puck in the first period with a 51.43 CF% at 5-on-5.
Even though the Sharks lost the possession battle, they out-shot the Leafs 16 to 12. With more shots to the net, the Sharks tallied three goals in the first period, with Pavelski and Karlsson leading the way with two points. The Sharks felt pretty good going into the first intermission with a 3-2 lead.
The second period was less than balanced as the Leafs started to mount their comeback, with a 62.22 CF% and generating 17 shots and 17 scoring chances. One of those was a tying goal from Josh Leivo. Then a sloppy power play turnover led to another breakaway opportunity for the Leafs and it was Kasperi Kapanen who gave the Leafs a lead on a short-handed goal.
Despite losing the possession battle in the second, the Sharks were able to get their share of opportunities, firing 14 shots on goal and creating 12 scoring chances. Nonetheless, they were unable to land another tying goal.
In the third period, the Sharks regained possession of the puck with a 67 CF% along with 15 shots for, but it was only good enough for them to generate eight scoring chances. The Leafs, on the other hand, created four chances and although it was a low amount, it was good enough for Mitch Marner to give them a two-goal lead.
There were bright spots for the team in the game, especially in the first period when they responded to the Leafs goals and taking the lead. However, more than half the team performed below a 50 CF% and negative Relative CF%. It was a long night for the Sharks, who spent a lot of their time trailing the puck and facing shots all night. They played with fire in giving a skilled team like the Leafs plenty of chances to get the puck in the net, and it came back to burn the Sharks.
On Saturday the St. Louis Blues come into SAP Center where the Sharks will look to get back into the win column and avenge their performance in St. Louis from a week ago.