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Couture helps lift Sharks past Maple Leafs
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TORONTO (AP) — The Toronto Maple Leafs were outmatched and outclassed by the San Jose Sharks.

Logan Couture had a goal and an assist, helping the Sharks defeat the Maple Leafs 4-1 on Thursday night. Couture’s goal early in the second period was the eventual winner for San Jose, which ended a two-game skid.

“We’re probably a junior team against an NHL team tonight,” Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier. “I don’t know how many times we’re going to talk about having a good start and we just don’t do it.”

Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson and Tommy Wingels also scored for the Sharks, and Antti Niemi made 27 saves for the win. Joe Thornton added two assists for San Jose.

“You’ve just got to take it day by day to be honest with you,” said Thornton of the Sharks’ push for the playoffs. “You can’t look too far ahead and you’re definitely not looking behind you. You’ve just got to stay in the moment. Enjoy this, but get ready tomorrow and then get ready for the next day, but just keep it in 24-hour segments.”

Jake Gardiner was the lone scorer for Toronto, which has dropped four straight. Bernier stopped 38 shots.

“It was like a pro team playing a non-pro team,” Toronto interim coach Peter Horachek said. “We were outclassed, outworked, outskated, outhit. I’m not sure outhit. They didn’t have to (hit). They had the puck the whole time.

“It wasn’t good.”

Hertl opened the scoring for the Sharks on a costly turnover by the Leafs. An errant pass went deep into the defensive zone thanks to a line-change mix-up. Chris Tierney beat defenseman Eric Brewer to the puck, skated behind the net and fed Hertl for the easy deflection past Bernier.

San Jose dominated play in the first, outshooting the Leafs 21-8.

Couture scored an impressive power-play goal to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead. Standing in front of Bernier’s crease, he corralled a pass from Thornton, put it on his forehand and into the net while two Toronto defenders checked him.

Gardiner sent a wrist shot from near the blue-line past Niemi at the 8:54 mark of the second period to make it 2-1. Niemi was screened by a cluster of Sharks defenders trying to cover Richard Panik in the slot.

Thornton continued to dismantle the Leafs defense, feeding Karlsson from behind the net. Bernier stood no chance on the play, as Karlsson was completely uncovered.

Niemi made a spectacular blocker save near the midway point of the second, sliding from his left post to the center of the crease to knock away a shot from Andrew MacWilliam in the slot.

San Jose scored again with 6 seconds left in the second period as Matt Nieto lobbed a slow wrist shot from the faceoff circle that was deflected by Wingels over Bernier’s left shoulder to make it 4-1.

“They got a lucky goal on the fourth one there, 5 seconds left in the second period,” Bernier said. “That really changed the momentum for us.”

NOTES: Leafs F Nazem Kadri served the first game of his four-game suspension. ... Toronto C Peter Holland sat out with a lower-body injury. T.J. Brennan was a healthy scratch. ... Scott Hannan and John Scott were scratched for San Jose.