1. Matthews, Nylander collaborate on Leafs' first goal, give Toronto game's first lead. The chemistry between centre Auston Matthews and linemate William Nylander has been apparent, often-described and analyzed, and for good reason: both have the capability to create space and set up scoring plays and both can be the beneficiary of teammates who can create space, and finish scoring opportunities with a goal.
The latest example of their collaborative success came a little more than midway through the first period of Monday's game, when Nylander carried the puck from one side of the Sharks' defensive zone to the other before dishing it off to Nikita Zaitsev; the Leafs blueliner fired a shot that hit winger Zach Hyman, but Matthews quickly picked it up by using his right skate to kick the puck to his stick, then took a single stride to his left and beat San Jose goalie Martin Jones at the 12:14 mark to register his team-leading ninth goal of the year and put Toronto ahead 1-0.
Matthews' elite footwork with the puck is arguably one of the lesser-discussed elements to his game, but the sophomore NHLer is already among the league's best in that department. But the bulk possession time of the scoring sequence belonged to Nylander, who employs his speed to make him as slippery a big-leaguer as you'll see. When you have that much talent, unselfishness and vision on one line, terrific chemistry is likely to follow.
Video: TOR@SJS: Andersen steers away Burns' big blast
2. Sharks settle in Toronto's zone in second period, even the score on Pavelski goal, and Andersen keeps Buds in it for rest of the frame. The Sharks outshot the Leafs 14-9 in the opening frame, but the discrepancy in San Jose's favour was even bigger in the second period, as the homeside outshot Toronto 11-2. It shouldn't surprise anyone, then, that the Sharks found a way to even the score: centre Joe Pavelski deflected a shot by veteran Joe Thornton past Buds goaltender Frederik Andersen and into the net at 7:58 of the period.
Andersen kept the Leafs even with the Sharks with some stellar stops, and Toronto entered the second intermission tied largely because their netminder kept them in it. Not enough of Toronto's skaters were engaged against a hungrier San Jose squad, and it showed in the middle period.
3. Third straight trip to penalty box for Leafs results in go-ahead marker for San Jose. The Leafs gave the Sharks a power play opportunity in each of the first and second periods, and were unable to pressure San Jose into taking even a single minor penalty through the first 40 minutes of play. So when Toronto was called for its third straight trip to the penalty box - via a cross-checking call against centre Dominic Moore at 2:57 of the third period - the creeping sense of dread grew that a special teams goal would hurt the Buds.
That came to pass at the 4:11 mark, when blueliner Tim Heed fired the puck past Andersen for his second of the year and the go-ahead goal. And Toronto couldn't stay away from the penalty box in the wake of that goal, earning their fourth consecutive minor call at 8:05. It's not easy to get back into a position to win the game when your discipline won't let you play at full-or-extra strength, and such was the case for the Leafs through the first half of the third. And yet again, they couldn't get anything resembling pressure on Jones, amassing just two shots on net through the first 14 minutes of the frame, and finally being unable to lure San Jose into taking one penalty in any of the three periods.
Video: TOR@SJS: Kadri tips home Borgman's drive in front
4. With Leafs' net empty, Sharks get insurance marker from Ward to lock up victory. Toronto didn't show enough energy or push most of the night with five skaters, but Leafs coach Mike Babcock pulled Andersen with less than three minutes left in regulation, and although they did get their second goal of the game when centre Nazem Kadri netted his seventh of the year at the 18:50 mark. The problem was, one minute and three seconds prior to Kadri's goal, winger Joel Ward scored an empty-netter to make it 3-1, so Kadri's goal only made it 3-2. And that was all the offence that could be produced by either side, resulting in the Leafs' third straight loss.
5. Energy, engagement must be better for Buds in Part Two of their California road swing. Monday's loss was the fourth in Toronto's past five games, and marked the second straight time (and only the third in 12 games this season) the Leafs couldn't generate at least three goals. Their next stop on their California trip takes place Wednesday against Anaheim, and though the Ducks haven't looked like their dominant selves to start the year, they have won two in a row and Toronto will need to considerably boost its compete levels and tenacity around the puck if they don't want their losing skid to continue.