TORONTO – Brad Stuart’s second period goal was the difference as the Sharks beat the Maple Leafs, 4-2, at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night.
San Jose, starting a four-game road trip, has won its last six and is 9-1-1 in its last 11. Toronto lost its fifth in a row (0-3-2).
The Sharks surrendered a two-goal lead in the second period, but Stuart’s third goal of the season gave San Jose a 3-2 advantage before the second intermission. Jerred Smithson inadvertently tipped in Stuart’s attempted centering pass to Joe Pavelski with four minutes left in the middle frame, as Smithson was jostling with the Sharks’ third line center in front of the net.
Logan Couture’s empty net goal with 1:24 left capped the scoring.
Trailing 2-0 to start the second, Toronto badly outplayed the Sharks for the first 10 minutes of the period. On a power play, Mason Raymond scored on a two-on-one rush after Stuart was caught pinching at the Sharks’ offensive blue line. Raymond’s wrist shot trickled through Antti Niemi at 2:43, with Scott Hannan the lone defender.
The Maple Leafs kept up the pressure, and scored again on a man advantage with Couture off on a high-sticking minor. Phil Kessel easily slid in a feed through the slot from Tyler Bozak at 9:47, after Bozak retrieved the rebound of a shot from close range by James van Riemsdyk.
The Sharks took over the rest of the period, though, and registered the next 12 shots on goal, ending with Stuart’s go-ahead marker.
In typical fashion, the Sharks jumped on an opponent early. A pair of first period goals by Mike Brown, and Joe Thornton on the power play, staked the Sharks a 2-0 lead. They are now outscoring the opposition 36-16 in the first period.
Brown’s goal came on a deflection of a Jason Demers floater from the point at the 10-minute mark, while Thornton deposited his third goal in four games on a pass through the slot by Pavelski on a five-on-three at 14:31.
Thornton, playing with a significant shiner over his right eye from a deflected puck last Saturday, extended his point streak to six games (3g, 5a).
The Sharks improved to 10-1-1 against Canadian teams this season, and are 8-1-1 against the Eastern Conference including 7-0-1 on the road.
San Jose was 1-for-4 overall on the power play. Thornton’s first period goal was the Sharks first five-on-three marker of the season.
Toronto entered the game with the league’s best power play at home, and finished 2-for-3. Overall, the Maple Leafs are 14-for-40 at Air Canada Centre (35.0 percent).
The Sharks surrendered two power play goals in a game. for the first time since Oct. 30 in Los Angeles.
Niemi started for the seventh straight game, and recorded his 16th win with 28 saves.
James Reimer took the loss for Toronto, allowing three goals on 40 Sharks shots.
James Sheppard returned to play on the fourth line after he was a healthy scratch for the last two games.
The Maple Leafs were without Nazem Kadri, who missed the game due to a death in the family.
The Sharks visit the Penguins on Thursday and Hurricanes on Friday. Their road trip concludes on Sunday in Minnesota.