TORONTO – Nazem Kadri was an assist short of a bizarre Gordie Howe hat trick.
Kadri ripped out part of Joe Thornton's mountain-man beard in a fight off the opening faceoff and scored in regulation in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 3-2 shootout victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.
Thornton and Kadri dropping the gloves just two seconds after being tossed out of the opening faceoff for slashing each other like manic lumberjacks. The 38-year-old Thornton's beard took a beating in the scrap, thanks to Kadri hanging on to the beard rather than his jersey as he was twirled around by the bigger Shark. A hunk of Thornton's facial hair was left on the ice like a mini-tumbleweed.
"I ended up with a piece of it in my hand," Kadri said. "I have no idea how that happened
"I thought I was a hockey player not a barber. I didn't mean to grab him there. I mean he's a big boy. I couldn't reach all the way across his shoulder. I felt like I just grabbed him in the middle of his jersey and just came down with a handful of his hair."
Thornton didn't comment after the game.
The hair ultimately found its way to the glove of backup goalie Aaron Dell on the San Jose bench.
"We were trying to figure out what it was," Sharks forward Chris Tierney said.
Kadri, who was giving up at least 4 inches and 30 pounds to Thornton, had a welt on the side of his face as a souvenir of the fight.
"I didn't see that coming," said former Shark Patrick Marleau.
The fight seemed to spark the Leafs, who snapped a three game losing streak. They had plenty of jump against the talented Sharks in a wide-open, entertaining game that saw plenty of big saves at both ends.
"It was a good fight ... It kind of gets everybody pumped up, especially to see a smaller guy like that (fight)," Leafs center Auston Matthews said.
Matthews and Tyler Bozak scored for the Leafs in the six-round shootout. Kevin Labanc was the lone successful Shark thanks to goalie Frederik Andersen, with Tierney hitting the goalpost in the Sharks' final attempt after Bozak scored.
Marleau also hit the post in his shootout attempt.
Toronto snapped a three-game losing streak and a 10-game slid (0-8-2) against the Sharks.
"I thought we did lots of really good things," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "In saying all of that, we're still a young team and learning how to win. The game's on the line and we do some things to generate offense for the other team instead of just continuing to play right."
Toronto killed Mitch Marner's high-sticking penalty in the final 1:50 of overtime.
Matthews opened the scoring with 1:23 left in the first period with his 18th of the season.
Dillon tied it with 52 seconds left in the first.
Kadri scored on a power play midway through the second for his 14th goal.
Tierney tied it with 1:42 left in the period.
NOTES: San Jose is three games into an 11-game run that features nine games on the road thanks to the U.S. figure skating championships back at the SAP Center. ... San Jose won 3-2 when the teams met Oct. 30 in Marleau's return to the Shark Tank.
Sharks: At Ottawa on Friday night.
Maple Leafs: Host Vancouver on Saturday night.
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