Marleau scores 2 goals, Sharks top Maple Leafs 2-1
TORONTO (AP) – Patrick Marleau was the only San Jose player to put a puck past Toronto’s James Reimer.
He did it twice, and that was enough to give the Sharks a much-needed win.
Marleau scored two goals in the second period, and the Sharks beat Toronto 2-1 on Thursday night, sending the stumbling Maple Leafs to their seventh loss in eight games.
Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke put the team on alert when he told a Toronto radio station Wednesday that he was in the market for a goalie. Judging by the team’s recent play, he might not stop there.
Toronto dropped below the postseason cutoff in the Eastern Conference.
“We need a win somehow,” Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
Reimer made 24 saves but dropped to 11-9-4 because he couldn’t stop Marleau. The Sharks (32-20-7) won for the first time in five games.
“I’m quite proud and pleased of the way the guys responded,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We had a hell of a game on our hands. They’re a very fast team, but we did some of the things we wanted to.”
Jake Gardiner scored for the Maple Leafs (29-25-7), who are 1-6-1 since Feb. 7.
The biggest concern against San Jose was the lack of urgency the Leafs displayed during the first 40 minutes. A fantastic third period wasn’t enough to make up for the slow start.
“Points are extremely important right now, and every game is a big game for us,” forward Tim Connolly said. “We’ve got to play that way for a full 60 minutes.”
Toronto dropped to ninth place in the East with Winnipeg’s victory over Tampa Bay. The Maple Leafs are trying to end their playoff drought at eight years.
“It’s fun to play right now,” center Tyler Bozak said. “We’re in a race, we’re battling for a playoff spot. These are the games every guy in here wants to play, but we’ve got to do a better job.”
The teams took time to feel their way into the game, producing a tepid opening 20 minutes. But Marleau put the Sharks ahead 32 seconds into the second period by quickly firing Joe Thornton’s pass over Reimer’s shoulder.
“It’s been stressed the last couple days, and just to get that first goal is huge,” Thornton said. “We kind of grabbed some confidence off that.”
That put Toronto back on its heels and allowed San Jose to gain momentum.
Marleau scored his 25th of the season – and second of the night – just 17 seconds after Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn was penalized for interference. The forward stood at the top of the crease and tipped a Logan Couture shot past Reimer.
There was an uneasy feeling in the Air Canada Centre when the horn sounded after the second period with San Jose ahead 2-0. A smattering of boos could be heard in the otherwise silent arena.
It changed quickly following the intermission as the Leafs came out firing.
Gardiner narrowed the deficit to 2-1 at 3:53 by firing a shot through traffic that eluded goalie Antti Niemi. It was the fourth goal of the season for the rookie defenseman.
Toronto kept on pushing and had two good chances by Matthew Lombardi turned away. Niemi was out at the top of the crease to deny the second opportunity from the slot. That was as close as the Maple Leafs would get.
“We threw everything but the kitchen sink at the San Jose Sharks and Niemi,” Reimer said. “I thought we worked hard and we deserved to score another goal or two at the end.”
Burke will get one more opportunity to watch his team before Monday’s NHL trade deadline, Saturday when the Maple Leafs play Washington. The Maple Leafs will complete a four-game homestand against Florida on Tuesday.
“We need to win those games,” Wilson said. “We have to understand that as a group in there, that you’ve got to be ready to give whatever you’ve got left in the tank to win those hockey games.”
NOTES: Maple Leafs D Mike Komisarek was scratched for the ninth time in 11 games. … Recently acquired San Jose forward Dominic Moore sat out because of an undisclosed lower body injury. … Former Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. is now director of pro scouting for the Sharks. … Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors was in attendance.
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