Leafs can’t hold lead versus Sharks, fall in shootout

The Maple Leafs allowed a point to slip away in Tuesday’s outing versus the San Jose Sharks, falling 3-2 in a shootout. The defeat was Toronto’s fifth loss in the past six games.

Coach Mike Babcock rightfully cited his team’s lack of discipline as a factor in the defeat. The Leafs gave up six man advantages to their opponents, and the final one – coming with just over five minutes left in regulation – ultimately led to the Sharks’ tying goal.

Toronto started strongly, much to the appeal of the sellout crowd of 19,380 fans at Air Canada Centre. Zach Hyman opened the scoring on a deflection, just minutes after needing help to leave the ice after blocking a shot from San Jose’s star defenceman Brent Burns.

In the second period, Auston Matthews converted on a 5-on-3 power play for his team-leading 13th goal of the season. The home team appeared to be in the driver’s seat, carrying a 2-0 lead into the third period and having posted 10-1-4 record this season when leading after forty minutes.

But Justin Braun spoiled Fredrik Andersen’s shutout bid with a splendid backhand shot at 12:43 of the final frame to bring the Sharks to within a goal. Then, Matt Hunwick’s penalty set the stage for the visitors to tie the game, which they did courtesy of Joe Pavelski’s ninth tally of the year.

After a scoreless overtime period, Logan Couture was the only successful skater on either side in the shootout.

The game wasn’t without controversy. In the second period with the Leafs nursing a 1-0 lead, an apparent goal by Morgan Rielly was called back due to goaltender interference on Nazem Kadri. Babcock challenged the call, to no avail, even though it appeared that Pavelski had pushed Kadri into Sharks netminder Martin Jones. Furthermore, there appeared to be no evidence that Kadri’s incidental contact had any factor into Jones’s ability to make the save.

“Obviously I wasn’t thrilled with the call,” Kadri said. “I think that anyone that has any common sense probably knew that was a goal.”

Frederik Andersen made 40 saves in the loss.