In a thoroughly entertaining, back-and-forth game, the Sharks continued their recent stretch of strong play with a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night at SAP Center. Stefan Noesen scored the game-winner early in the third period and Martin Jones made several incredible saves in net to preserve the victory.
Against the uber-talented Maple Leafs, San Jose got contributions from throughout its lineup, with the first and fourth lines each scoring multiple goals. Evander Kane was flying all night long, and added two more goals to his team-leading total.
Jones got his third consecutive start in goal, and rewarded interim coach Bob Boughner with a highlight-reel performance that included a number of jaw-dropping saves. With the win, the Sharks are now halfway through an undefeated six-game homestand.
Here are three takeaways from San Jose's second straight win over an Eastern Conference contender:
The Sharks had the higher quantity of goals in the game, but the talent mismatch between the two teams was evident in how the Maple Leafs scored theirs. Toronto has quite a stable of extremely talented forwards, and they left their mark on the night.
San Jose took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but that was erased when Auston Matthews scored his 46th goal of the season, which ranks as the second most in the NHL. Tuesday marked Matthews' seventh career game against the Sharks, and the San Ramon native has now accounted for eight goals in those contests, including at least one in each game.
Later in the second frame, Matthews was one-upped by his linemate Mitch Marner, who went between the legs for a goal that you'll be seeing on all the highlight shows for plenty of time to come.
What was THAT?! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/UNh0vqUe2L— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) March 4, 2020
Toronto certainly had the quality. San Jose had the advantage where it mattered, though.
Quite a response
Just over a minute after Matthews tied things up, the Sharks went back in front thanks to Antti Suomela's first goal of the season.
Suomela makes it 2️⃣-1️⃣ pic.twitter.com/KzuiKFWYtY— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) March 4, 2020
It was exactly the kind of response that had been lacking throughout much of San Jose's struggles this season. All night long, the Sharks kept the pressure on, and didn't allow Toronto to carry the play for many extended stretches.
With the score tied entering the third, the game was hanging in the balance -- temporarily, that is. Suomela got the only assist on Noesen's game-winning goal less than six minutes into the frame, and 50 seconds later, Kane doubled San Jose's advantage. From that point on, whenever Toronto threatened, Jones had an answer.
The Maple Leafs are fighting for playoff positioning. The Sharks aren't. You wouldn't have been able to tell by the fight San Jose showed Tuesday night.
While the Sharks' three-game winning streak is admittedly a small sample size, it's certainly better than the alternative. San Jose could have thrown in the towel and given up on the season a while ago -- and at times, it looked like the team might have done so -- but based on the last week, it's abundantly clear the Sharks are taking this opportunity seriously, even if it's not the one they hoped to have.
Suomela's performance was the latest example of some of San Jose's younger forwards showing signs of life. Jones has been on quite a roll, and Tuesday might have been his most promising showcase yet. For those who next season isn't enough of a motivating factor, playing the role of spoiler appears to be doing the trick.
There are 16 games remaining on the Sharks' regular-season schedule. They're not going to the playoffs, but they still have plenty left to play for.