Toronto wins fourth straight, beating Sharks
SAN JOSE – Carl Gunnarsson scored a tiebreaking goal midway through Toronto’s four-goal third period and the resurgent Maple Leafs gave coach Ron Wilson his 600th career win by beating his former team, the San Jose Sharks, 4-2 on Tuesday night.
Clarke MacArthur scored twice, Phil Kessel added another goal and James Reimer made 40 saves to help the Maple Leafs win their fourth straight game and just second all season when trailing after two periods.
Patrick Marleau scored twice for the Sharks, who have lost five straight and have a losing record this late in the season for the first time since April 2006. Joe Thornton assisted on both goals to end a five-game pointless streak, his longest drought in 10 years.
But that wasn’t enough to end San Jose’s skid or prevent Wilson from becoming the seventh coach to reach the 600-win milestone in a place where he had so much success.
Wilson won 206 games during four-plus seasons in San Jose, leading the Sharks to the playoffs four times. He was fired in May 2008 after the Sharks were knocked out in the second round of the playoffs by Dallas – their third straight second-round exit.
This was Wilson’s second trip back to San Jose since he was fired, having lost 5-2 in December 2008. And this game did not appear to be going his way through two periods, as Toronto trailed 1-0.
But the Maple Leafs scored three times in less than 7 minutes to get the win. Kessel, selected to the All-Star game earlier in the day, got it started when he skated past a diving Dan Boyle and then eluded a poke check from goalie Antti Niemi before sending the puck into the empty net.
Then, with Niclas Wallin in the penalty box for interference, MacArthur eluded Jason Demers and fired a shot through a screen by Mikhail Grabovski and into the net to make it 2-1.
Marleau responded with a great individual effort, skating through three defenders to get a shot off and then knocking his own rebound past Reimer for the equalizer.
But less than 2 minutes later, Gunnarsson tipped a point shot from Dion Phaneuf in traffic past Niemi for the game-winner. Niemi kept the game close, stopping Kessel on a breakaway with 3:46 to go, but MacArthur’s empty-net goal in the final minute sealed the win.
Despite four power plays and 21 shots, the Sharks were unable to score in the second period in a continuation of what has plagued them during their recent skid. In fact, the 21 shots were the most they had ever had in a period without a goal.
Making the period more painful was the fact that San Jose also lost leading goal scorer Logan Couture to a knee injury after he was kneed by Colton Orr.
The Sharks snapped a scoreless streak of more than 105 minutes midway through the first period when Thornton chased down a long pass off the boards from Demers and fed Marleau for the one-timer. Before that goal, San Jose scored on just one of its previous 137 shots dating to late in the second period against Vancouver on Jan. 3.
Notes: Kessel has scored in four straight games. … The previous Sharks record for shots without a goal in a period was 20 in the third period at Columbus on Feb. 10, 2010. … The Sharks recalled D Justin Braun from the minors and suited him up for the game.