Sharks

Sharks ruin Marleau's return, beat Maple Leafs 3-2

Sharks ruin Marleau's return, beat Maple Leafs 3-2

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SAN JOSE -- Rookie defenseman Tim Heed scored a tiebreaking goal on the power play early in the third period to spoil Patrick Marleau's return to San Jose by leading the Sharks to a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.

Heed scored on a slap shot from just above the faceoff circle with 15:49 to play and assisted on Joe Pavelski's second-period goal to give the Sharks their 10th straight win over Toronto. Joel Ward added an empty-net goal for San Jose.

This time it came with Marleau in a Maple Leafs sweater as he returned to the arena he called home for his first 19 seasons in the NHL. Marleau left as a free agent this summer to sign an $18.75 million, three-year contract with Toronto.

Marleau finished with two shots on goal but didn't record a point as Martin Jones made 16 saves for San Jose to improve to 7-0 against the Maple Leafs. Jones has allowed just 10 goals in those starts.

Auston Matthews scored in the first period and Nazem Kadri added a goal with 1:10 remaining to cut San Jose's lead to 3-2. The Maple Leafs have lost four of five and were held to only two shots on goal in a span of more than 31 minutes in the second and third periods.

Frederik Andersen made 36 saves but had no chance on Heed's slapper that went into the top corner after Timo Meier had drawn a cross-checking penalty from Dominic Moore early in the period.

The night started with an emotional pregame ceremony for Marleau. The Sharks played a video tribute to Marleau and he received a loud ovation that lasted nearly 90 seconds from the fans, who chanted "Pat-ty! Pat-ty!" Players from both teams tapped their sticks in appreciation as the spotlight shined on Marleau and he waved to the crowd.

The Sharks then controlled play for the first two periods but were unable to translate their 25-11 advantage in shots on goal to a lead on the scoreboard.

The Maple Leafs struck first midway through the first period when Matthews beat Logan Couture to the rebound of a point shot from Nikita Zaitsev and knocked it into the open net for his ninth goal.

San Jose tied it midway through the second when Pavelski deflected Heed's point shot past Andersen for his third goal.

NOTES: Thornton got an assist on San Jose's first goal, giving him 1,399 points to move past Jari Kurri for sole possession of 20th place on the career list. ... Toronto forwards James Van Riemsdyk (lower body) and Matt Martin (upper body) returned to the lineup after missing one game each.

UP NEXT:
Maple Leafs: Visit the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night.

Sharks: Host the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night.

Logan Couture believes Sharks' motivation should be sky-high in long offseason

Logan Couture believes Sharks' motivation should be sky-high in long offseason

The Sharks will miss the NHL playoffs for the first time in five seasons, and just the second time since the 2002-03 campaign.

They struggled so much and things got so bad they didn’t even qualify for a modified 24-team playoff format designed to wrap the season after the coronavirus pandemic forced the NHL to hit pause in mid-March.

Disqualification is an odd feeling for most veteran Sharks, especially after a season that started with promise ended in disaster.

San Jose's path to redemption won’t start for months. It may be well into the winter before next season ramps up, meaning the Sharks have plenty of time on their hands to ponder what went wrong and how to make it right.

They want to find old form at the next available opportunity. Logan Couture believes that should push them through a long and uncertain offseason.

“As a group, we know that every single person needs to be better next year,” the Sharks captain said Thursday on a video conference with Sharks reporters. “I think, with this long break, it adds time for guys to get prepared. Motivation should be at an all-time high for everyone because you want to come back and prove it was just a fluke. We believe that we’re a good team. We have all the pieces in the room to be successful. We just need to go out and do it.”

That’s not outside the realm of possibility, though there are as many -- or more -- question marks surrounding the team than in recent memory.

Those will be answered by management as the Sharks try and build the depth required to weather a long season and, if all goes right, playoff intensity.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl promises to be better than before injury]

The current issue is to keep players focused and training on their own so they’re ready to return when the time comes.

“Players are creatures of habit,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil. “The cycles of training and preparing of training and getting ready. This will be the longest time off our team and players have ever had.

"And you’ve got to use that time very well. You don’t want players under-training, or over-training. We’ve talked with our strength and medical people, trying to figure out the best way to get the programs in place so when they come into camp, they’re ready to go.”

Sharks' Tomas Hertl vows to be 'better than before' after knee injury

Sharks' Tomas Hertl vows to be 'better than before' after knee injury

Tomas Hertl stood before the media just a few weeks after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee and vowed to be ready by Sharks training camp. That seemed like a bold proclamation at the time, a promise his rehab should let him live up to.

The All-Star center provided a progress report on his physical condition during a Thursday video conference with the media, saying he’ll be ready for the 2020-21 campaign even if it starts as scheduled in October.

Dropping the puck on time seems highly unlikely after the NHL hit pause on the 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic and announced plans to pick it back up with a modified, 24-team playoff format. That could push next season further into the winter, allowing Hertl to downshift his rehab some and focus on getting strong over getting back on the ice.

“I can do almost anything,” Hertl said. “I am able to run, not full speed, but I can do almost everything I was doing before. I was actually surprised about that after not even four months. If we knew the season was starting in October, I would probably start skating in a few weeks. If there’s extra time it might help me, but I think I would be ready for the season even if it starts when it always does. I should be 100 percent ready for next season whenever it happens.”

[RELATED: Sharks' path back to Stanley Cup contention filled with major hurdles]

Well in line to keep his initial promise, Hertl went a step further Thursday by saying he’s not just looking to regain previous form. He wants to improve upon it.

That would be good news for the Sharks and would continue the 26-year old’s steady ascent as a top-shelf player. He has improved considerably in recent seasons while beginning to maximize great talent, becoming a vital component of the Sharks attack.

Hertl considers this latest knee injury as a speedbump, not a permanent roadblock. He has dealt with knee issues before and always comes back strong. This experience, he says, should be no different.

[RELATED: What you need to know as Sharks long season ends]

“I feel like I have proved the past couple years that I can be one of the top players, one of the top centers on the team,” Hertl said. “I want to keep working on that. I have had some setbacks, but I’m not scared about it. I always come back. The experience has made me stronger. I am taking [this rehab] like another challenge.

“I was named an All-Star and it was a great experience for me, and it makes me want to go back. I want to be there for my team, and that’s why I have been working every day for four months even with the season so far away. My next goal is getting back and being better than before. I know I can do it. I have to give it everything I can to get back.”