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Sharks top Maple Leafs to begin homestand

by Eric Gilmore /

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau knew it was only a matter of time before he ended his frustrating scoring drought.

That time finally arrived Thursday for the Sharks' all-time leading goal-scorer in a 3-1 victory at SAP Center against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Eleven seconds after Tyler Kennedy gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 8:55 of the first period, Marleau made it 2-0, ending a 16-game goalless streak that had matched his career-high.

"You try and keep it going now," Marleau said. "The chances have always been there so hopefully this is the start of something that should have been going in earlier and they start going in now."

Marleau's goal was his eighth of the season and the 445th of his career, giving him sole possession of 60th place on the NHL's all-time list. It was also the 86th game-winning goal of his career, tying him with Joe Sakic and Pierre Turgeon for 19th place all-time.

As his goal drought lengthened, Marleau made a point of driving the net and getting to the spots where most goals are scored in the NHL. Marleau drove the net and fired a backhander from close range that snuck past Reimer. Marleau's goal was initially waved off on the ice, but after a video review, the NHL Situation Room ruled that the puck completely crossed the goal line.

"That's a good thing to see for us and certainly for him," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "You could feel like it was coming the last few games, him taking it to the net hard and again tonight driving wide and using his speed. I hope for his sake and for ours they'll start going in more often now. I think over the last five, six games he's really put his nose over the puck and gone to those spots. If he continues to do that it will go in."

Tommy Wingels scored an empty-net goal for the Sharks with 44.2 seconds remaining in the game, and Antti Niemi made 24 saves, including some gems down the stretch.

Roman Polak had the only goal for Toronto, and goaltender James Reimer, making his first start since Jan. 3, made 39 saves.

The Sharks (24-16-5) opened a season-long seven-game homestand by ending a three-game home losing streak. They beat Toronto for the fourth straight time.

The Maple Leafs (22-20-3) came into the game after starting their swing through California with back-to-back shutout losses, 2-0 to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday and 4-0 to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday. The Maple Leafs avoided a third straight shutout and scored a goal for the first time since Jan. 9 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but they lost their third straight game and fell to 1-4-0 under interim coach Peter Horachek.

"We have to figure it out," forward Phil Kessel said. "We had chances. We had one puck I still don't know how it didn't go in. We kept whacking it and it just wouldn't go in. We're playing decent hockey, we're just not winning games. We just have to keep improving."

The Maple Leafs hadn't allowed more than 26 shots in any of Horachek's first four games, but they gave up 27 shots through two periods Thursday and were outshot 42-25 for the game.

Kennedy and Marleau were four seconds shy of tying a franchise record when they scored back-to-back goals in a span of 11 seconds in the first period, giving the Sharks a 2-0 lead against the Maple Leafs, who didn't arrive in San Joe until late Wednesday night after losing in Anaheim.

"That was probably one of our keys was they played last night and we wanted to get off to a quick start," Sharks center Joe Thornton said. "We did that. Scored two within the first 10 minutes, so that won us the game."

Kennedy scored his fourth goal of the season, taking a long pass right of the crease from defenseman Brenden Dillon and beating a sprawling Reimer with a wrist shot.

Kennedy's goal was the second in two games for a new-look fourth line that includes center Tomas Hertl and forward Tye McGinn. Hertl scored on Tuesday in San Jose's 3-2 victory against the Arizona Coyotes. Kennedy scored in his second game back after missing 15 straight with a shoulder injury.

"I think we're clicking a little bit," Kennedy said of his line. "I think we've got to focus on the little things to be successful and that's what we're doing now. It's just two games and you've got to keep moving on and getting better."

After Marleau scored, Toronto cut San Jose's lead to 2-1 at 11:57 when Polak scored his fifth goal of the season. Mike Santorelli fired the puck to the left of the net, and it banked off the end boards and in front of the goal line to Niemi's left. Polak, who had nearly hammered the puck past Niemi earlier in the period, swooped in and scored on a wrist shot.

"We didn't get the chances to go in," Horachek said. "There was some effort. We have to deal with it. It's not easy, but we're willing to deal with it and move on. There's no pity party. You just have to come back with another strong effort."

After being outshot 13-12 in the first period, the Sharks outshot Toronto 17-4 in a scoreless second period. Toronto center Sam Carrick hit a post early in the period, but the Sharks dominated play for most of the second. Hertl had a chance on a breakaway, and Reimer made a spectacular pad save of a blast by defenseman Brent Burns.

"I felt I played pretty well," Reimer said. "At the end it wasn't good enough. They were coming hard all night. We're playing the right way, we're doing the right things. It's a lot more structure. We're not getting the results."

Horachek reunited James van Riemsdyk with center Tyler Bozak and Kessel on the top line in the third period against Anaheim; the three were together from the outset against San Jose, but they didn't produce a point.

Santorelli had a great chance to score with just over five minutes left to play, but he fired a wide-open shot from the slot directly at Niemi, who made an easy save.

The Sharks won a home game for the first time since coming from behind to beat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in overtime on Dec. 20.

"It's important to get [wins] anywhere," McLellan said. "But it has been a while since we've won (at home), and we know what's ahead of us, the stretch that we're going to face."

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