Sharks

How players' meeting was catalyst for Sharks' suddenly-hot power play

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USATSI

How players' meeting was catalyst for Sharks' suddenly-hot power play

SAN JOSE -- From Nov. 19 to Dec. 31, the Sharks' power play was beyond putrid, scoring only twice on 49 attempts. But since the turn of the calendar, San Jose has been scorching with the man-advantage.

In the Sharks' 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at SAP Center on Thursday night, San Jose went 1-for-3 on the power play, with the lone marker proving to be the game-winning goal -- an absolute howitzer from Joe Thornton. By scoring that power-play goal, Thornton became the oldest player in franchise history to score a game-winning goal at 40 years, 191 days. But more importantly, it continued a trend in which the special-teams unit seems to have gotten back on track.

Counting Thornton's goal, the Sharks are now 5-for-11 with the man-advantage in 2020, scoring at least one power-play goal in four of their five games. So, what's different?

According to defenseman Brent Burns, well, not much at all.

"Getting bounces," Burns explained. "You're seeing things go in that previously never did. Instead of hitting a stick and going out, it's going in. Just quick movement and getting shots. I know it looks easy from where you guys sit, but the difference between [a shot] getting through and not is pretty minimal.

"It's nice to see that going in and guys getting confidence from that. But I wouldn't say there's much difference."

While Burns' explanation seems perfectly plausible, the good bounces aren't necessarily happening now by accident. Just before the power play caught fire, some of its critical members got together to try to figure things out.

"We had a dinner probably five, six games ago as a group of five, and chatted a little bit," Sharks winger Evander Kane said after the win. "[The power play] seemed to kind of take off from there. We've got some good puck movement going on. We don't care who scores and it's working right now."

When pressed for more details about that meeting of the minds, Kane was mum on the specific participants. But whatever was said certainly appears to have worked. 

"We knew that we hit rock bottom," Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner said of the power play. "You could see that we changed personnel, changed units around and it started clicking. And I think the biggest difference is we're not holding on to pucks on the power play. We're making other teams adjust because we're having good puck movement and I believe that our shooting mentality is a lot better."

As impressive as Thornton's shot was -- and boy did that thing move -- Boughner pointed to a less obvious reason for the puck finding the back of the net.

"And on that goal, great shot by [Thornton]," Boughner said, "but I think he could see where [Barclay Goodrow] was, and it was in the goalie's eyes. And the last few power-play goals, they're all the same. Timo [Meier] the other night in St. Louis. [Goodrow] is doing a real good job of sitting on the lap of that goalie. So it's nice to have options. That unit has been excellent for us."

[RELATED: Sharks captain Couture blames himself for fractured ankle]

The two points resulting from the win will aid the Sharks as they attempt to climb their way back into the playoff picture. They still have a long way to go, but Thursday's performance can serve as a building block as they attempt to piece some victories together. With Logan Couture expected to miss several weeks with a fractured ankle, San Jose can use every offensive boost it can get. The power play has found a groove, and the longer it can keep it up, the longer the Sharks can keep their postseason hopes alive.

Sharks' Joe Thornton scores two goals amid NHL trade deadline rumors

Sharks' Joe Thornton scores two goals amid NHL trade deadline rumors

Certain names live in Bay Area sports lore, and Sharks legend Joe Thornton is one of them.

On Saturday, he reminded us why.

Thornton, 40, admitted earlier in the day to The Athletic's Kevin Kurz that he's tempted at the thought of joining a contender at Monday's NHL trade deadline. With the Sharks well out of the playoff picture, the team could look to help a franchise icon finally become a champion by dealing him elsewhere. 

“You know, it is [tempting],” Thornton said to Kurz. 

Thornton made it clear in his conversation with Kurz that he isn't ready to hang up his skates after this season, too. And in the Sharks' 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden later that night, Thornton showed he still has plenty left in the tank.

The 22-year veteran snapped a 50-game streak in the regular season without a goal on the road when he found the back of the net in the second period to tie it up at 1. The goal also was his first at MSG against the Rangers since Dec. 8, 2002, when he was 23 years old.

Throughout his career, Thornton has been known as an assist specialist as opposed to potting goals. He's the Sharks' all-time leader in helpers with 803, but he was thinking goal the whole way in the first period.

"Yeah, I saw the D-man just kind of sliding over a little bit for Timo [Meier], so I just wanted to make it hard, make it on the net. You never know what's gonna happen," Thornton told NBC Sports California's Jamie Baker during the first intermission. 

Thornton entered Saturday with a career-low two goals this season. In the second period, he doubled his season total with his second goal of the night to give San Jose a 2-1 lead.

Thornton's two-goal performance made him the oldest to do it since Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins in October 2018. Thornton also became the third player in NHL history to be at least 40 years old and have a two-goal game at MSG. 

[RELATED: Thornton tempted to join contender at NHL trade deadline]

"The second one just -- Burns' shot just tipped off my knee pad, so just at the right place at the right time," Thornton humbly told reporters after the game.

Whether it's to help mentor San Jose's young roster during an injury-plagued season or if he joins a contender before the deadline, Thornton proved under the brightest lights that this Shark still can skate with the best of them. The legacy lives on, and it's far from over.

Programming Note: The "2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show" is coming your way Monday at 11:30 a.m. PT on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the noon deadline? Don’t miss it!

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in frustrating 3-2 loss to Rangers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in frustrating 3-2 loss to Rangers

BOX SCORE

The Sharks extended their losing streak to three games Saturday night, as they fell 3-2 to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. 

San Jose (26-31-4) found itself in a one-goal hole with slightly more than nine minutes to go in the first period. But toward the end of the frame, Joe Thornton evened the score with a marker of his own. 

Thornton wound up scoring two goals, but that wasn't enough for the Sharks against the Rangers (33-24-4).

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' defeat at MSG. 

Jumbo Joe comes up big

As Thornton finds his name in trade rumors, the 40-year-old quieted the noise Saturday in the Big Apple. He entered the day with two goals this season, and doubled that in one game. 

Thornton evened the score in the first period by hammering the puck into the back of the net with just over two minutes remaining in the first period. 

Thornton gave San Jose the lead in a much different way one period later, deflecting Brent Burns' shot attempt into the net.

Scoring in New York is quite the rarity for Thornton, too. His first period-goal snapped a 50-game goal-less streak on the road in the regular season, and it was his first goal at Madison Square Garden since Dec. 8, 2002. 

Kane's rough return

Evander Kane returned from his three-game suspension and was quite rusty. The Sharks winger missed on a short-handed breakaway goal attempt, but credit goes to Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin. 

Kane's two turnovers are what really hurt the Sharks. Sharks goalie Aaron Dell allowed three goals on 33 shot attempts in the loss. The first two goals, however, came right after turnovers from Kane.

Throughout the third period, Kane was nowhere to be found on the ice, as he stayed on the Sharks' bench.

Ferraro survives scare

Mario Ferraro has been a bright spot in the Sharks' down season. San Jose's injury-plagued campaign looked like it would continue in the wrong way Saturday, as Ferraro left the ice in the second period. 

Ferraro missed a large chunk of the second period. The good news is that he returned at the start of the third.

The 21-year-old was credited with an assist on Thornton's first goal, and he continues to be someone San Jose can rely on in the present and possibly the future.

Programming Note: The "2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show" is coming your way this Monday, Feb. 24 at 11:30 a.m. PT on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the noon deadline? Don’t miss it!