Sharks get much needed 2-1 win over Leafs

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Sharks get much needed 2-1 win over Leafs

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TORONTO It didnt have to be pretty. It just had to be a W.

The Sharks put an end to their season-long four-game losing streak on Thursday night in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, 2-1. Patrick Marleau scored twice and Antti Niemi made 29 saves in a key rebound performance personally, and the Sharks improved to 2-4-1 on their nine-game road trip.

The team leaders Marleau and Joe Thornton, in particular did just that in a game that lacked scoring chances on both sides.

Obviously, when you go on a slide like that its got to be everybody, but definitely guys look to the leaders to get their game going and everybody kind of follows that way, said Marleau, who tallied his eighth game-winning goal this season. It was a good team effort tonight, and we had everybody going.

Todd McLellan said: They did what they had to do as leaders. Patty is always really motivated to play against Toronto, and Jumbo, playing at home, you could tell this morning he was excited. He was fidgeting a little bit and getting ready to go.

Thornton hails from nearby London, Ontario, and was among the best players on the ice. He set up Marleaus first goal just 32 seconds into the second period, finding him open in the faceoff circle with a perfect backhanded pass from the corner after a hard forecheck by Tommy Wingels.

Marleaus second came on a deflection midway through the second, tipping a wrister from Logan Couture on the power play at 10:43.

To get that first goal was huge, Thornton said. We kind of grabbed some confidence off of that, and the power play has been hot so that was nice to get one to get one there.

In its last 15 games, the Sharks' power play is an impressive 17-for-46 (37.0 percent).

Just as importantly, the Sharks made the lead hold up. The club had a dubious streak of nine straight games surrendering at least three goals in regulation, but tightened up defensively in front of Niemi and held the speedy Leafs to just one goal. It came on a slap shot by Jake Gardiner in which Joffrey Lupul was screening Niemi early in the third period.

I think we were able to, from early on, not give them too many rushes with three-on-twos or two-on-ones, Niemi said. I think there were a couple rebounds that the Leafs werent able to get to, so we did a good job there, too.

Niemi finished with 29 saves and won for just the second time in his last eight starts. That included a pair on Matthew Lombardi in the third with his club nursing that 2-1 lead.

After Dan Boyle broke his stick on a slap shot in the offensive zone, Lombardi raced the other way with the puck and got a shot off from the faceoff circle that Niemi turned aside. Later, Lombardi flipped a loose puck in the slot towards the net that was frozen by the Sharks netminder with 8:21 to go.

The desperate Leafs, fighting to stay in the top eight in the Eastern Conference, swarmed around the net on a few occasions late in the game but couldnt find the equalizer despite a strong third period in which they outshot the Sharks, 16-9.

Niemi held his ground.

He looked very confident, which is what were looking for, McLellan said. He looked comfortable. His teammates felt good about his game. It looks like we have Nemo back, which is a good thing for us.

The goaltender played super. As long as we clear out the second and third opportunities, hes going to stop the first one, Thornton said.

In their previous nine games, the Sharks had allowed a combined 36 goals (4.0 per game), going just 2-6-1 in that span and falling into a tie for first place in the Pacific Division with Phoenix.
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The low point came on Tuesday, when they allowed four goals in the first period en route to a 6-3 thrashing by the NHLs last place Columbus Blue Jackets in which the Sharks were sloppy, undisciplined and suffered defensive breakdowns all over the ice.

Thursdays win, in which the Sharks didn't allow a single Maple Leafs power play, was a much better performance.

We corrected the discipline part. We werent going to the penalty box. We didnt give up that many odd-man rushes. Pretty solid defensively, McLellan listed.

Just huge points this time of year, especially because we have been struggling a little bit to play good defensive hockey like we did, Thornton said. They way weve been winning all year was good defensive hockey. To get back to that was huge.

The Sharks still have a chance to secure a .500 record with games in Nashville on Saturday and Minnesota Sunday.

Odds and ends: Joe Pavelski took a high stick on the opening faceoff in the second period, which is why Tommy Wingels was on the ice on Patrick Marleau's first goal ... Marleaus 33 game-winning goals are the most in the NHL since the start of the 2008-09 season Benn Ferriero was scratched while Torrey Mitchell returned to the lineup. Dominic Moore (lower body) and Douglas Murray (fractured Adams apple) were out for San Jose. The Sharks have won five of their last six against the Maple Leafs (5-1-0). Joe Thornton has five goals and 13 assists in his last 15 games. Logan Couture has nine goals and 11 assists in his last 15 games. Jim Vandermeer and Mike Brown engaged in a spirited fight with 17:12 left in the third.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”