Before the National anthems were sung, the Leafs had a very touching 21 seconds of silence to remember and pay their respect to the late great Leafs legend, Börje Salming. Salming passed away on November 24th after a short but tough battle with the deadly disease that is ALS. Salming was at center ice just 18 short days ago during the Hockey Hall of Fame weekend, receiving a well-deserved standing ovation. The Leafs were wearing their reverse retro jerseys in this one, their second time doing so this season. Personally, I was not a fan of their original reverse retro jerseys, but I can happily say they knocked it out of the park with these reverse retros. Unfortunately, it was learned during the game that this would be the last time the Leafs would wear not only those jerseys but also the Salming patch, such a shame. The Leafs came out red hot to start, the first couple of shifts were spent in the Sharks zone, which resulted in a couple of great chances for the blue and white. Mark Giordano made a fantastic play to break up a 2-on-1 opportunity for the Sharks. Halfway through the first period, it could have easily been two or three to nothing for the Leafs; however, it remained scoreless. Throughout the period, the Sharks managed to generate three breakaways. Unfortunately for Sharks fans, they only managed to get a single shot on goal in those three opportunities, which is not ideal. Fans would have to wait until the second period at least to see the first goal, as the first period ended scoreless. Shots on goal in the opening frame were 10-7 in favor of the blue and white. TOI leader after 20 minutes of play for the Leafs was Justin Holl with 8:28.
Auston Matthews scored the icebreaker in this one as he tipped a point shot from Mac Hollowell 4:19 into the second period past Aaron Dell for his 12th goal of the year. The second assist went to Michael Bunting. That was an outstanding look by Hollowell, who was playing in just his 5th NHL game. The Sharks didn’t waste much time answering back with a goal of their own as Mat Nieto beat Ilya Samsonov with his 6th of the year at 7:26, making it a 1-1 game. Logan Couture and Nick Cicek with the assists. The Leafs were awarded the game’s first power play due to some great work along the boards from Auston Matthews. He forced Nick Cicek to take a hooking penalty at 8:27. As the penalty expired, Mark Giordano was tripped in the Sharks zone by Luke Kunin, giving the Leafs back-to-back power plays. The Leafs had four straight minutes of power play time, but they couldn’t generate much of anything with it. Shortly after the second power play concluded, Timo Meier went the other way and had a great scoring chance, but Samsonov shut the door. In the last 5 minutes of the second period, things started to open up a bit as both teams traded chances back and forth. Full credit to Samsonov and Dell as they both shut the door and kept it a 1-1 game. In the final minute, Michael Bunting was cross-checked from behind in the Sharks zone, but there was no penalty on the play. The Leafs had the shot advantage in the middle frame as they outshot the Sharks 12-11. Giving the blue and white a 22-18 shot advantage overall. Matthews led the way in TOI after 40 minutes of play with 15:16.
Calle Jarnkrok suffered a groin injury in the second period and did not return for the third. As a result, Nick Robertson found himself moving up the lineup on a line with captain John Tavares and William Nylander. Mitch Marner was riding a 17 game point streak coming into this one, and he had just 20 minutes to extend the streak to 18 games as the 3rd period started. He came close to extending it 3:34 into the period as he centered the puck to Bunting but to no avail. The Sharks upped the tempo and hemmed the Leafs in their own zone for a couple of consecutive shifts. While Samsonov wasn’t overly busy through the first 40 minutes, he did a great job keeping it a 1-1 game. At 14:44 of the period, Nick Cicek was called for his second penalty of the night. This time it was for tripping William Nylander. With just 5:16 to go, what better time for Marner to extend his streak than right here? The Leafs generated some fantastic looks in the first 50 seconds of the man advantage. Unfortunately, they were unable to beat Aaron Dell.
Sheldon Keefe elected to use his timeout to rest his top unit with 4:24 remaining in the game and 1:08 remaining in the power play. The Leafs could not break the 1-1 tie with the man advantage. Pierre Engvall, however, rips one home on a hard-working shift for his 3rd of the year to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead with just 2:27 to go in regulation. A tremendous net drive by the 6’5 Swede. Every Leafs fan knew, as a result of that goal, it was likely that Marner was going to play the final 2:27 to try and extend his point streak to 18 games to tie the franchise record previously held by Darryl Sittler from the 1977/78 season as well as Eddie Olczyk from the 1989/90 season respectively. It took three attempts, but eventually, Marner was able to bury the empty netter with 1:11 to go. The first shot he had at it, he elected to attempt a pass to Bunting that didn’t connect. Then on his second attempt, he chose to shoot it himself, but he hit the post. On his third attempt, however, he made absolutely no mistake as he fired it dead center in the middle of the net, giving the Leafs a 3-1 lead. Mitch couldn’t help but shake his head and laugh after he finally managed to finish it off. Shots on goal in the third period were 10-6 in favor of the Leafs and 32-24 overall for the blue and white as well. TOI leader in this one was Auston Matthews with 23:32.
Tonight’s Three Stars:
1. Mitch Marner: 1 Goal
2. Ilya Samsonov: 23 Saves
3. Auston Matthews: 1 Goal
Mitch Marner will have the opportunity to extend his point streak to 19 games and take sole possession of the franchise record as the Leafs will be in Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning.
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