SAN JOSE – There were four fights between the Sharks and Maple Leafs on Tuesday night at SAP Center, as San Jose cruised to one of its more dominant wins of the season, 6-2 against a flat Toronto team playing its second game in as many nights.
The most important fight, though, was the one that never happened.
Tommy Wingels declined an invitation to dance with David Clarkson, moments after he trampled over the Leafs’ Peter Holland in the Sharks’ defensive zone. Instead, he skated in a beeline the other direction, and deflected in a deflating goal that gave San Jose a 3-1 lead at 6:54 of the second period.
“I don’t think after a good hit there needs to be a fight at all times, so I said no thanks, and got back up in the play,” said Wingels, who has three goals and five points in his last three games. “The best way to respond like that is to score.”
In fairness, the Sharks probably would have won the game even if Wingels threw down with Clarkson. San Jose was the far better team, outshooting Toronto 48-21 and dominating puck possession, including winning 63 percent of faceoffs. The Maple Leafs, who entered in third place in the Eastern Conference, never looked competitive.
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission thanks to a weird series of events. Wingels seemed to break a 1-1 tie after each team scored early, when he slid a loose puck inside the near post, but referee Dave Jackson utilized the “intent to blow” rule, which states he meant to blow the play dead after losing sight of the puck.
It was the second time this season Wingels was denied an obvious goal, including Nov. 6 against Buffalo, when he appeared to tally an overtime winner.
Wingels said: “I don’t know why that one didn’t count. At the time, I thought it was a good goal, but I guess they didn’t see it that way. But, the team responded after that.”
Brent Burns’ 18th goal, a new career high, came less than two minutes later and was confirmed by a brief video review after Jackson didn’t realize the puck quickly went in and out of the cage.
The second period was particularly dominant for the home team. San Jose registered 15 of the first 16 shots on goal, and increased its lead to 4-1 on the Wingels goal and the first of two from Joe Pavelski.
“We talked about using our energy, a few more pucks to the net, forcing the play in their end a little bit longer,” Todd McLellan said. “We had the short change. A lot of times the second period the long change is talked about, but when you’re on offense you have the short change, and you can pin teams in, and we were able to do that.”
Pavelski, who is now tied for third in the league in goals with 34, said: “We had a lot of zone time. We got on top of them a couple times. They had a few long shifts just by us controlling the puck down low. Guys had some good changes. All the things that you need to do to kind of create the momentum, we did.”
Physical play also was at the forefront. Despite declining Clarkson in the second period, Wingels got a fight in anyway. He was quick to engage Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul, taking exception to Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf’s cheap jab to Havlat’s jaw late in the game.
“I don’t know why he’s going after Marty. That’s what started that,” Wingels said.
McLellan said: “We have that ability. Guys take care of each other. When we have to do it, we do it.”
San Jose (42-17-7, 91 points) has now drawn to within two points of Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and is just four points behind the St. Louis Blues for first place in the NHL. They gained seven of a possible eight points on a four-game homestand, and a three-game Eastern swing begins Thursday in Columbus and continues in New York and Long Island.
“It's nice to take care of the games at home,” said Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who had one goal and a +5 rating. “If we want home-ice advantage in the playoffs, we’ve got to take care of playing here in front of our fans.”