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Sharks lose Couture then roll over to Leafs
Yet another 3rd period implosion
1/11/11 - By Mike Lee -

As if things couldn't get any worse in San Jose. Not only are the Sharks continuing to blow 3rd period leads, but now they may be without leading goal scorer Logan Couture. The Sharks rookie forward was taken out by a knee-on-knee cheap shot by Toronto Maple Leafs thug Colton Orr. With the one consistent part of their offense on the shelf, the Sharks buckled in the 3rd period and allowed the Maple Leafs to score 4 goals in the 3rd period to take a 4-2 decision at HP Pavilion on Tuesday night.

It's hard to describe what's worse. The fact that the Sharks allowed Toronto to score at will in the final period, or that they did nothing in terms of a response to the hit on Couture. Orr received a paltry two minute kneeing minor for the blatant hit.

Sharks forward Ryane Clowe didn't mince words after the game.

"I don't what's the rule or how you get kicked out of the game," said Clowe. "You got a guy that doesn't play take out one of our best players and it's obvious. It's two minutes. What's a kneeing, five minutes? What do you have to do, take a guy's knee completely off his leg?"

Given that the referees did nothing to deal with Orr, it was up to the Sharks to take action, but nobody seemed willing to step up. Unless Orr gets traded to a Western Conference team, it's unlikely they'll get another chance soon, as the Sharks won't see Toronto again this season and it was the first time the Maple Leafs made an appearance in San Jose since December of 2008.

As for the rest of the game, it can be summarized in two words. Poor defense.

As has become an improbable habit of the Sharks this season, they simply can't hold leads. Tuesday night's debacle came in the form of defensive gaffs that resulted in three goals for the Maple Leafs in the span of seven minute span.

"We have been whining about our offense lately, but tonight it was our defense commitment that let us down," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan.

Patrick Marleau gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 10:12 of the opening period, depositing a Joe Thornton drop pass past AHL call-up goaltender James Reimer from the left circle. Marleau made a bee-line for the Toronto net as Thornton skated the puck behind Reimer, then snapped home his 16th goal of the season.

The Sharks would continue their quest to lead the league in shots on goal, by pumping up the statistic with meaningless shots from long range. Reimer was credited with 40 saves on the evening, including 21 in the 2nd period that never posed a threat.

Clarke MacArthur would whiff on a backhand chance into a wide open net 4 minutes into the 2nd period. He would miss on another golden opportunity 6 minutes later after Dan Boyle fell down in front of the Sharks net.

The rest of the period was a penalty parade, starting with Orr's slap on the wrist.

Right on queue, the Sharks let the Maple Leafs back into the game early in the 3rd period. The implosion started with Phil Kessel converting at 3:27 of the period after getting Boyle to over commit as he moved across the slot from left to right. Kessel then waited out Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi before depositing his 18th goal of the season into the Sharks net.

MacArthur would finally zero in on the Sharks goal, by sending a backhand shot past Niemi, after defenseman Niklas Wallin was sent off for interference.

Marleau would tie the game 65 seconds later by chipping his own rebound past Reimer with 11:25 left in regulation. The Sharks forward raced up the slot and fired a shot on Reimer that kicked back out to the top of the crease. Marleau would get his stick on the puck for the put back, to give him a multi-goal game.

Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson would tip home the game winner, after Dion Phaneuf sent in a shot from the right point. The Sharks had three defenders in front of Niemi, but neither could disrupt Gunnarsson from converting only his 2nd goal of the season.

Niemi stopped Kessel on a breakaway chance with 3:47 to play to keep the Sharks within a single goal, but his teammates had no answer for Reimer.

San Jose was forced to pull Niemi in exchange for the extra attacker, but that just opened up the net for MacArthur to bag his 2nd of the evening. A long rebound in the Toronto zone kicked out to the blueline where Boyle tried handling, but he mishandled the puck while trying to stop it with his glove. The puck ended up on MacArthur's stick and eventually in the Sharks goal.

"You seem to drop a notch every time you lose a game," added McLellan. "There are not many teams in the NHL that are going to feel sorry for us. The last group to feel sorry for themselves is us. They way to get out of it is to continue working, to improve our defensive play, to remain disciplined, and to stick together."

To add insult to injury the victory turned out to be Toronto head coach Ron Wilson's 600th career win. The former Sharks bench boss celebrated with his players as MacArthur's goal iced things.

"It's pretty special," said Wilson. "Obviously because only six other guys have done it. You don't see it very often. And one of the best things is that we managed to find a way to do it here."


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Scoring
1 2 3 T
TOR 0 0 4 4
SJ 1 0 1 2
1st period - 1, SJ, Marleau 16 (Thornton, Demers), 10:12.
2nd period - None.
3rd period - 2, TOR, Kessel 19 (Bozak, Crabb), 3:27. 3, TOR, MacArthur 13 (Kaberle, Kulemin), 7:30, (pp). 4, SJ, Marleau 17 (Thornton), 8:35. 5, TOR, Gunnarsson 2 (Phaneuf, Armstrong), 10:10. 6, TOR, MacArthur 14 (Grabovsky, Kulemin), 19:21, (en).
Penalties
1st period - None.
2nd period - Nichol, SJ (holding), 1:54; Orr, TOR (kneeing), 9:25; Phaneuf, TOR. (holding), 11:15; Boyle, SJ (slashing), 11:48; Kessel, TOR (hooking), 12:28; Beauchemin, TOR (cross checking), 15:46; Heatley, SJ (hooking), 17:15.
3rd period - Wallin, SJ (interference), 7:12.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
TOR - Reimer 42 40
SJ - Niemi 25 22
SJ - empty net 1 0
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
TOR 8 12 6 26
SJ 13 21 8 42
Power Play Conversion
TOR 1 of 3
SJ 0 of 4
3 Stars of the Game
James Reimer
Patrick Marleau
Phil Kessel
Attendence
17,562
Officials
Referees: Devorski, Rehman. Linesmen: Cameron, Sharrers.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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