Video: TOR@SJS: Matthews slams home Leivo's feed for PPG
1. In familiar start to game, Matthews puts Leafs ahead first. The Leafs and Sharks engaged in a high-octane, incredibly fast first period, and although Toronto was outshot 13-5 in the first 20 minutes and needed goalie Frederik Andersen at the top of his game to keep San Jose off the scoresheet, the Buds did well in terms of puck possession at the start of the contest. And after centre Auston Matthews drew a penalty nearly six minutes into the second frame, Matthews scored the first goal of the game - and his team-leading 31st of the season - at the 6:41 mark to put the visitors ahead.
The scoring sequence was a credit to a number of Leafs - winger William Nylander deftly began the offensive zone entry with the man advantage, and winger Josh Levio made a stellar pass for the primary assist - it was Matthews' pinpoint shot that was as impressive as anything else. It was also the 12th time this year the rookie has scored the opening goal in a game, adding to his already-impressive list of achievements.
2. Sharks strike back on Dillon's slap shot from the point. Toronto did a better job of consistently possessing the puck in the second period and outshot the Sharks 12-9, but San Jose has one of the league's better home records for good reason, and they rebounded after Matthews' goal when blueliner Brenden Dillon fired a shot from the blueline that beat Andersen at 12:17 of the second.
Similarly, the Leafs did not wilt after the Sharks evened the score, forcing the home team into taking another penalty late in the frame thanks to their crisp passes and strong play along the walls. However, they had to be mindful of San Jose's transition game, which is as dangerous as any NHL team's.
3. San Jose ratchets up pressure early in third, but Andersen keeps them in it. Despite having the extra man in the first 17 seconds of the third period and then again for another two minutes beginning at the 5:36 mark of the frame, Toronto was outshot 8-2 by San Jose through the first half of the period and had to lean on Andersen again to fend off the Sharks' attack.
4. Hertl gets go-ahead goal late in regulation, Pavelski nets insurance marker. The Leafs struggled with San Jose's speed and focus throughout the third period - the Sharks outshot them 15-4 in the final frame and 37-21 on the night - and although Andersen was stellar for the grand majority of the contest, he got beat on the short side by centre Tomas Hertl with 1:23 left in regulation for San Jose's go-ahead goal. And with Toronto's net empty for the extra attacker, Joe Pavelski scored the Sharks' third of the game to seal the win.
Hertl's goal was likely one Andersen would want to have back, but the game-winning scoring play began back in San Jose's zone with some sloppy play from Toronto's forwards; meanwhile, Hertl had three Leafs defenders on him at the time he scored, and none could strip him of the puck. The Sharks lead the Pacific Division because they're deep and talented, but this was not one of the Leafs' better all-around outings of late.
5. Boyle solid in Leafs debut. Centre Brian Boyle was playing in his first game as a Leaf after being acquired from Tampa Bay Monday, and the veteran performed well, logging 12:33 of ice time (including 2:49 on the penalty kill) and registering one shot on net.
Boyle barely had time to familiarize himself with his new teammates after flying to California, but the 32-year-old immediately improved Toronto's fourth line with his size, experience and tenacity.