San Jose Sharks' Brad Staubitz, right, takes a hard punch to the head from Toronto Maple Leafs' Garnet Exelby during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto Monday, February 8, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
TORONTO - Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere will try to pay attention to the Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver, but admits he might not try very hard, saying before Monday night's game that he planned to "watch it from the pool there in Mexico - if they have it."
Giguere got a free preview against eight Olympic-bound Sharks, and was beaten for the first time as a member of the Leafs, as San Jose topped Toronto 3-2 in a hard-fought game against the top-ranked team in the Western Conference.
"I thought we outplayed a pretty good team," Giguere said. "They're obviously one of the better teams in this league, and being as young as we are, being able to outplay them is a really good sign for us."
Ryane Clowe scored the game-winner for the Sharks with less than seven minutes to play in the third period. Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist for the Leafs, who nearly tied the game with a flourish in the final minute of regulation.
Toronto management had to scramble to fill out its roster before the game with word that two regular forwards had fallen ill. Centre Christian Hanson and winger Fredrik Sjostrom were both scratched with what was alternately reported to be either the flu or food poisoning. With the Toronto Marlies playing the same night in Abbotsford, B.C., a full menu of American Hockey League help was not available.
The Leafs pressed Andre Deveaux into action, and also looked to Nazem Kadri, their 19-year-old first-round draft pick playing with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. Kadri, selected seventh overall last spring, arrived in Toronto on an emergency basis, having collected 26 goals and 66 points in 42 games with the Knights this season.
Kadri made his NHL debut on the very first shift of the game, facing off against the gigantic Joe Thornton and his fellow Olympic-bound linemates, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau. Kadri took a regular shift, but lost 11 of 13 draws, and was pegged with two giveaways on the game's official scoresheet.
His cameo appearance was only for one game.
"He skated well," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "This was a great opportunity for him, to see what the NHL is all about. He had a lot of turnovers. And things he can probably get away with in junior hockey, you can't get away with in our league, let alone against a top team in the league."
The Sharks had already been on the road for the better part of a week before they arrived in Toronto. San Jose - which still has stops in Columbus, Detroit in Buffalo before the Olympic break - was no worse for wear, though, with eight straight road wins.
Toronto struck first when forward Tyler Bozak converted a nifty feed from Kessel to beat goaltender Evgeni Nabokov midway through the first period. The Leafs carried that 1-0 lead into the first intermission, holding the powerful Sharks at bay while managing to hold their own in the offensive zone.
San Jose finally broke through in the second, with goals from defenceman - and impending Canadian Olympian - Dan Boyle and another from Joe Pavelski, who is bound for Vancouver as a member of the U.S. team. Boyle's goal was the first Giguere had allowed since he arrived in Toronto.
The 32-year-old had become the first goaltender in Leafs history to post shutouts in both of his first two games in uniform, beating the New Jersey Devils (3-0) and the Ottawa Senators (5-0) since he landed on Jan. 31.
Kessel pulled Toronto level with a power-play goal in the final minute of the second, on a play set up by defenceman Tomas Kaberle, who earned the 400th assist of his career.
The Sharks scratched out the win with Clowe's goal late in the third. The Leafs outshot the visitors, 34-26, and had a chance to tie seconds before the final horn.
"Obviously we weren't very good in the first period, we were in sand, clearly outworked," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "I tried to spark the team somehow by shuffling lines, trying some different things. I'm not even sure that worked until the third period, but we found a way to win. It wasn't our best effort by any means."
NOTES: Bobby Orr watched Toronto's morning skate from the top row of the corner golds at Air Canada Centre. The retired legend tried to maintain a low profile, though he did pose for a few pictures with admirers. ... The Leafs will be free to embark on their two-week Olympic break after Friday's game in St. Louis.