TORONTO — The Maple Leafs earned a 3-2 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday in a game that saw Toronto's Nazem Kadri rip out part of Joe Thornton's mountain-man beard in a fight.
Toronto had to kill off a Mitch Marner high-sticking call with 1:50 left in OT.
Auston Matthews and Tyler Bozak scored for the Leafs in the six-round shootout. Kevin Labanc was the lone successful Shark thanks to goalie Frederik Andersen.
Former Shark Patrick Marleau hit the post in his shootout attempt.
Toronto had lost 10 straight (0-8-2) to the Sharks and had won just one of the last 15 games (1-14-0) against them.
Matthews and Kadri scored in regulation for Toronto (24-16-2), which had lost its last three games.
Brenden Dillon and Chris Tierney scored for San Jose (21-12-5), which outshot Toronto 32-28 during regulation time.
It was a frigid -26 C with the wind chill outside but it was hot from the get-go inside the Air Canada Centre with Thornton and Kadri dropping the gloves just two seconds in after slashing each other at the opening faceoff like manic lumberjacks.
The 38-year-old Thornton's beard took a beating in the scrap, thanks to Kadri hanging on to his beard rather than his jersey as he was twirled around by the bigger Shark. A hunk of Thornton's facial hair was left on the ice like a mini-tumbleweed, ultimately finding its way to the glove of backup goalie Aaron Dell on the San Jose bench.
"We were trying to figure out what it was," Tierney said when interviewed prior to the third period.
It was likely also a first for the 19,132 in attendance.
Toronto came out fighting and had plenty of jump against the talented Sharks in a wide-open, entertaining game that saw plenty of big saves at both ends.
William Nylander cracked a shot off the goalpost and linemate Matthews came close early in a torrid start to the game. The Leafs ran up a 7-2 lead in shots before the Sharks started pulling back, controlling the puck in the Toronto end and keeping Andersen busy in his 100th regular-season game as a Leaf.
But Toronto went ahead with 1:23 remaining in the first period when Matthews tipped in a Connor Carrick shot from the point for his 18th of the season. San Jose answered 31 seconds later when a shot from the point deflected off a skate to Dillon who, cruising in from the point, beat Andersen as he tried to slide across his crease.
Kadri redirected a Marner shot in with his skate for a 2-1 lead at 12:40 of the second during a four-minute Toronto power play after Brent Burns high-sticked Marner. It was Kadri's first goal (and point) since Nov. 30, ending a 12-game drought.
San Jose tied it up late in the period via a gift after Andersen misplayed a puck that came into the Toronto end off a centre-ice faceoff. Instead of sending the puck to safety, Andersen's clearing attempt trickled in front and Tierney swept it in.
The Leaf goalie redeemed himself with a fine save on Joe Pavelski in the third period off a Thornton setup on a 2-on-1.
Sharks starter Martin Jones came into the game 7-0-0 against the Leafs with a .947 save percentage.
Andersen, who is making US$5 million this season, started the game $2,000 lighter after being fined by the league for diving/embellishment in the second period of the Dec. 31 game against the Vegas Golden Knights. Andersen had been issued a warning after a Nov. 24 game against Carolina.
The Sharks, coming off a 4-1 win Tuesday in Montreal, face Ottawa on Friday before wrapping up a five-game road trip in Winnipeg on Sunday. San Jose is three games into an rough 11-game run that features nine games on the road thanks to the U.S. figure skating championships back at the SAP Center.
The Sharks arrived having won four of their last five and on a 7-2-2 run. The Leafs came into the contest with a 3-6-1 record in their past 10 games.
San Jose won 3-2 when the teams met Oct. 30 in Marleau's return to the Shark Tank after 19 seasons there.
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