Canucks open road swing at Maple Leafs (Jan 06, 2018)
TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs were able to hold on by a whisker to defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in a shootout Thursday night to end a three-game losing streak.
Bolstered by that success, they will play the third game of a six-game homestand Saturday night against the struggling Vancouver Canucks, who will be opening a seven-game road trip in the game at the Air Canada Centre.
The Canucks (16-19-5) are coming off a 5-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday at the Rogers Arena. They have lost two in a row and are 2-9-1 in their past 12 games. On the road this season, however, they are 9-7-2.
The Maple Leafs (24-16-2) are 4-5-1 in their past 10 games and are 12-6-0 at home.
The Leafs' game against the Sharks had an unusual start with San Jose's Joe Thornton and Toronto's Nazem Kadri fighting two seconds after the opening faceoff.
Both received fighting majors. During the bout, Kadri grabbed Thornton's beard and pulled out a handful of whisker as he fell.
"I have no idea how that happened," Kadri said. "I thought I was a hockey player and not a barber. I didn't know what to expect, I didn't mean to grab him there. He's a big boy, I couldn't reach all the way across his shoulder and felt like I just grabbed him in the middle of his jersey and just came down with a handful of hair."
The battle supposedly gave the Maple Leafs more energy.
More important, Kadri ended a 12-game run without a point when he gave Toronto a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal off his skate in the second period. The Sharks, however, tied the game and Toronto needed the shootout for what coach Mike Babcock said was an important win against a veteran team.
"It was a good test for us," Babcock said. "We need to get going at home, we need to get some momentum. I thought we had good energy the last two games, we've got more energy, but you've also got to get in a rhythm and win."
In a move Friday, the Maple Leafs called up defenseman Travis Dermott from the Toronto Marlies and loaned defenseman Martin Marincin to the AHL team.
Nikita Zaitsev has been out with a lower-body injury and is not expected to return until mid-January.
"We'll see what tomorrow brings," Babcock said about Dermott. " You don't want to get him here before he's ready, but if he can help, we'll find a way to get him in. We brought him up for practice today. We'll get (game action) figured out."
Toronto lost 2-1 in Vancouver despite controlling the play as Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom was superb. Markstrom is expected to be in goal Saturday as the Canucks try for their first win at the ACC since Dec. 17, 2011. The Canucks are 1-4-0 in their past five visits to Toronto.
Anders Nilsson had a difficult game in goal Tuesday, allowing four goals on 19 shots before being lifted.
Canucks coach Travis Green said naming a starting goaltender has "been difficult since Day 1."
"I'm not worried about Markstrom," Green said. "He's a competitor and had two pretty good games, but I thought it was time to get Nilsson back in. It's funny. People say play Marky every game and then they say you're not playing Nilly enough. Our goalies haven't played up to par and anyone can second-guess. I'm confident in both guys and I know the psyche of Marky more than Nilly."
Canucks left winger Sven Baertschi is expected to return during the trip from a broken jaw sustained Dec. 9 against the Calgary Flames when he was struck by the puck on a clearing attempt off the glass. He hopes the return comes Saturday. He has eight goals and 10 assists in 30 games.
Canucks defenseman Ben Hutton also is looking to see action. He has not been in uniform for three of the past five games with Green having a choice of eight available defensemen.
"Our top three changes every night and I'm not concerned about (Hutton)," Green said. "He'll get back in."