The Maple Leafs knew this three-game California swing would be difficult, writes Mike Brophy. They were never really in the game in San Jose where they were humbled 6-2 by the host Sharks on Tuesday.
It was just that kind of a night.
With his team trailing 4-1 early in the third period in San Jose, Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf set his sights on the Sharks Patrick Marleau for a big open-ice hit. Might have been a beauty if he succeeded.
He missed...kind of.
Phnaeuf whiffed on Marleau, but nailed teammate James van Riemsdyk who was shaken up on the play. It was one of Phaneuf's hardest hits of the season.
Van Riemsdyk left the game for a time, but ultimately returned to action.
As if losing the game wasn't bad enough, Phaneuf's thundering hit knocked van Rimesdyk out of the game. It put the exclamation point on what was a horrific night for the Maple Leafs, but more specifically the team's No. 1 line of JVR, Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak.
At the time of van Riemsdyk's temporary departure, the line was a collective minus-8. Kessel was on for another goal against and ended up minus-4 on the line which dragged the line down to minus-9. The trio has been one of the NHL's best lines the past six weeks, but this was an evening they would rather forget.
The Maple Leafs knew this three-game California swing would be difficult and were quite impressive Monday night winning 3-1 in Anaheim. Truth be told, they were never really in the game against San Jose.
You know the rest...don't fix it. Apparently it is broke, though. Toronto defenceman Cody Franson didn't take the warm-up causing suspicion he might be injured. It turned out he was sick. Toronto had been enjoying success going with 11 forwards and seven defencemen, but with Franson sidelined, right-winger Colton Orr drew back in (after missing seven games with an unspecified injury) and Maple Leafs went with 12 forwards.
One night after he made 43 saves in leading Toronto to a 3-1 win over Anaheim, Jonathan Bernier was given the night off and James Reimer played.
Reimer did not have a good game, but he was not the reason why the team lost. Nevertheless, his confidence seems to be at low tide. He didn't supply the confident goaltending Bernier has in recent games.
Jake giveth (away) and Jake taketh (back)
Toronto defenceman Jake Gardiner made a giveaway to San Jose's Matt Nieto who dropped the puck back to defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic who, in turn, drilled home the first goal of the game -- a slap shot that beat Reimer.
Off the ensuing faceoff Sam Jose moved the puck into the Maple Leafs zone and James Sheppard nearly made it 2-0, but his shot that beat Reimer hit the crossbar.
The Maple Leafs retrieved the puck and Gardiner took off up the ice with Mason Raymond. Gardiner passed to Raymond who sent it back and Gardiner notched his seventh of the season 25 seconds after the Sharks had taken the lead.
That wasn't all for Gardiner. With his team trailing 5-1 in the third he followed up on an offensive rush and snapped a shot home from the slot to make it 5-2.
No goal, but...
...It was waved off. The Maple Leafs caught a break at 9:31 of the first period when referee Dave Jackson signaled no goal on what probably should have given San Jose a 2-1 lead. Tommy Wingels backhand shot clearly entered the Toronto net before the whistle sounded, but after a review the goal was disallowed.
No goal (again), but...
...This time it counted...and probably should not have. During a scramble in front of the Toronto net, San Jose's Joe Thornton was shoved into the crease. While in there, he took the opportunity to hold Reimer down as Brent Burns connected on a wrist shot from the slot. Jackson, again, waved the goal off. Apparently he thought it had not entered the net, but the replay proved otherwise. On this play the goal probably should have been waved off for goalie interference.
Wingels strikes again
Wingels drilled Toronto's Peter Holland with a hard and legal check and then politely declined to scrap with David Clarkson of the Maple Leafs. Instead he joined his team on the rush and wound up tipping home a shot by Justin Braun to make it 3-1.
Late in the second period Toronto's Mason Raymond found himself in alone and faked a slap shot. San Jose goalie Anttii Niemi didn't bite. He stretched out as Raymond drew closer and did not allow the attacker to get a shot on goal.
In the mood to fight
Maple Leafs right-winger David Clarkson engaged in his third fight of the season at 15:04 of the second period against Andrew Desjardins of the Sharks. It was mostly a wrestling match.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.