Leafs get another test from Sharks
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TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a testing part of their schedule and, so far, have come up short.
They lost 6-3 on the road Sunday to the Vegas Golden Knights, who have the second-best record in the NHL, then lost 2-0 Tuesday to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who own the best record in the league, in the opener of a six-game homestand.
"It's good to see what they can do, and I think we did a really good job (Tuesday)," Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen said. "I think we were closer to tying it up and having a shot. It was close but some positives. We'll build off this."
The next test for the Maple Leafs (23-16-2), who have the 11th-best record in the NHL with 48 points, will come Thursday night when they face the San Jose Sharks (21-12-4).
The Sharks' record is 14th in the league, but their 46 points have come in 37 games, four fewer than the Maple Leafs have played.
The Sharks won the first meeting of the season between the teams 3-2 at home on Oct. 30.
The Maple Leafs hope they can learn from losses like the one to the Lightning on Tuesday.
"We have to find a way to win those games," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said after the team practiced Wednesday. "We've got to find a way to block one more shot, make one more good play, score on the power play, score on one of those rebounds. You just have to find a way and that's what good teams do."
The Maple Leafs have lost three in a row and are 3-6-1 in their past 10 games.
The Sharks are 7-2-2 in their past 11 games after defeating the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Tuesday. San Jose had lost the opener of a five-game trip 6-0 Sunday to the Dallas Stars.
"Yeah, we were pretty good, other than taking too many penalties, but I thought we created a lot," Sharks center Logan Couture said after the tame Tuesday. "We went into the neutral zone with a lot of speed, carrying the puck into their end. I think we had them on their heels for most of the night."
The Sharks were able to kill three first-period penalties and allowed them to finish the first period with a 1-0 lead.
"I think the PK was huge for us," Couture said. "I think we had three in the first, so it was big, and we were able to score that goal to get up one heading into the second, so we're happy with where our game is at."
The first-period goal was scored by Joe Thornton, his eighth of the season. He has 1,418 points in the NHL, two behind Adam Oates for 17th on the NHL's all-time scoring list.
"I didn't know that, but obviously I know (Oates) personally and he's a player that I always liked growing up and just a great guy," Thornton said. "So, if I'm lucky enough to pass him, it will be a huge honor."
The Maple Leafs had center Nazem Kadri back in the lineup Tuesday. He missed the two previous games after taking an elbow to the head and neck area Thursday in the win over the Arizona Coyotes.
"Felt great actually, had fresh legs," Kadri said. "Felt like I was in on a lot of chances, just couldn't get them to go."
The Maple Leafs also had center Frederik Gauthier in the lineup after he was called up from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL Tuesday when goaltender Calvin Pickard was returned to the minors.
"I liked (Gauthier)," Babcock said. "I thought he skated, he worked, he was good on the penalty kill. That's the best team in the league and he was out there and looked good to me, didn't cause any trouble, knows how to play."
The Maple Leafs are 11-6-0 at home; the Sharks are 9-6-2 on the road.
Updated January 4, 2018