Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks
By Matthew Harrington
SAN JOSE–Concerns about the San Jose Sharks team defense weren’t alleviated Thursday night with the Sharks dropping a 5-3 contest to the Toronto Maple Leafs (13-6-0) at SAP Center on Thursday night. San Jose offseason target John Tavares scored, Kasperi Kapananen netted a pair and Frederik Andersen made 42 saves to seal a Maple Leafs win. Erik Karlsson picked up a pair of assists while Kevin Labanc, Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored for San Jose (10-7-3).
Just like in Tuesday’s game, the Sharks had the lead after a strong 1st period, but unlike the comeback win against Nashville Tuesday, the Sharks couldn’t finish the job Thursday. Toronto scored three unanswered goals in the second and third periods for the win.
Practically every goal could be linked back to a lapse in decision making that made the Sharks vulnerable defensively. The game-tying goal 2:31 into the second came with two Sharks below the Maple Leafs’ goal line and another two along the faceoff dots. That left only Joakim Ryan back as the defender of a 2-on-1 when Brent Burns’ pass was picked off by Tyler Ennis. Ennis fed Josh Leivo, who ripped a shot over Sharks goalie Martin Jones’ blocker for his second of the year.
The game-winning goal proved another egregious play, amplified by the Sharks being on the power play. Pavelski chose a soft backhand chip up the boards from the blue line that Mitch Marner read and picked off easily. His co-winger Kapanen knew his teammate had it and fled the defensive zone, leading to an academic pass and breakaway goal with 7:54 left in the second. The game-winning goal was Kapanen’s 8th of the year and second of the game.
Mitch Marner tacked on the dagger goal with 6:06 left in the third, taking a stretch pass from his goalie Andersen right at San Jose’s blue line. From there Marner curled to the outside, wrongfooting Jones before firing a shot few in the NHL could save. The Sharks fired a salvo on Andersen, especially with their net empty, but none of their 15 third period shots could tickle the twine.
The goal outage for San Jose was strange after their ability to score at will in the first. The two teams combined for 28 shots and five goals in the first, with the goals coming in all varieties.
First came Tavares’ goal 2:10 into the game. The Sharks aggressively pursued Tavares in the offseason before he inked his seven-year, $77 million deal with Toronto, which led to a chorus of boos every time he touched the puck Thursday. A even louder boo erupted from the crowd after Tavares banked a puck from behind the net off Vlasic’s skate and into the Sharks net for a 1-0 Maple Leafs lead.
The puck luck evened out for the Sharks after Labanc scored 5:28 into the game. Andersen misplayed a dump-in, thinking the puck would carom out the opposite side of the dump instead of following the puck as it came back on the same side. It came right to Labanc for the tap-in and a tie game.
Kapanen’s first goal came on another case of puck mismanagement after Evander Kane tried to peel back while entering the Toronto zone but lost the puck instead, flinging it back after a Johnny Dermott pokecheck. Patrick Marleau picked up the puck and fed Kapanen for the one-time finish and a 2-1 Leafs lead with 8:13 left in the first.
Pavelski scored the Sharks’ lone power play goal in three opportunities after Burns’ shot-fake pass hit the captain on the far post for the soft-touch redirect. Marc-Edouard Vlasic added a one-timer for his first goal of the year with 1:39 left in a highly entertaining first period.
The Sharks continue the homestand, welcoming the St. Louis Blues to the Shark Tank Saturday. They’ll hope to be with Tomas Hertl in the lineup again after he sat out Thursday’s game due to an injury sustained in the the Tuesday tilt with Nashville.