John Tavares and William Nylander each had a goal and assist and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the San Jose Sharks 4-1 on Friday night.
Auston Matthews and Wayne Simmonds added goals, and backup goalie Joseph Woll stopped 34 shots as Toronto won for the eighth time in nine games. The Maple Leafs are 11-2 in November and have outscored their past three opponents 13-3. Toronto moved into a tie with Florida for first place in the Atlantic Division.
“I think we want to stay even-keeled but at the same time we’re enjoying each other right now,” Simmonds said. “We’re doing a good job of focusing in on our games and taking it one game at a time, one period at a time. But we are having a good time.”
The Sharks got a first-period goal from Nick Bonino, but their defense couldn’t hold up against constant pressure from the Leafs. James Reimer (13 saves on 17 shots), who has provided a spark in the net recently for San Jose, was pulled in the second period in favor of Adin Hill (16 saves).
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The Sharks were slowed by sloppy puck handling much of the game.
“Turnovers all over the ice, and that’s when we get ourselves into trouble. We turn the puck over way too often,” Sharks center Logan Couture said. “We said going into tonight we want to play our style, not theirs. And their style is feeding off transitions and turnovers. We fed into their style and recipe for a 4-1 loss.”
Toronto jumped ahead just 31 seconds into the game.
Tavares alertly let a pass from Morgan Rielly slip past him, and it landed on the stick of Nylander, who beat Reimer for a 1-0 Toronto lead.
Bonino tied it 4:44 into the first with his second goal in as many games for San Jose. But the Maple Leafs answered just 32 seconds later as Simmonds deflected David Kampf’s shot past Reimer for a 2-1 lead.
Matthews scored on a deflection of Timothy Liljegren’s shot in the second period, increasing Toronto’s lead. Tavares added his 10th goal of the season on a power play shortly after.
“When you’re having success and results and we’re doing good things, we talk about having an extremely high standard and pushing that level,” Tavares said. “That’s really what we want to be about.”
Toronto right wing Ondrej Kase was scratched Friday after a heavy workload in Wednesday’s win over the Los Angeles Kings. The six-year veteran, who played in just three games last season because of injuries, has five goals and three assists in 21 games this season.
Sharks forward Alexander Barabanov, traded from Toronto to San Jose in April, nearly scored a highlight-reel goal against his former team. Racing down the right side into Toronto’s zone, Barabanov guided the puck behind his back and through his legs to shake Simmonds, who was defending. Barabanov couldn’t complete the goal, appearing to lose control as he approached Woll at the net.
“I don’t play defense,” said Simmonds, a right wing. “He made a great move on me, but I’m not a defenseman.”
San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic played in his 1,100th NHL game. He is five games away from passing Joe Thornton for second place on the Sharks’ all-time list of games played.
Maple Leafs: Travel to Anaheim on Sunday to complete a four-game trip.
Sharks: Play at Chicago on Sunday to begin a five-game trip.
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