Sharks' Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau reach fourth decade, make NHL history


Sharks' Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau reach fourth decade, make NHL history

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau combined for the Sharks' final goal of 2019. In San Jose's first game of 2020 on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the two future Hall of Famers got on the scoresheet again, but not before further cementing their legendary statuses.

Simply by appearing in the game at PPG Paints Arena, both Marleau and Thornton added to their resumes by becoming one of 14 players in NHL history to play at least one game in four-or-more decades. Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins also accomplished the feat Thursday night.

But Marleau and Thornton weren't simply bystanders against the Penguins. They both played critical roles in the final result: A 3-2 Sharks' win in overtime.

Precisely one minute after Pittsburgh had tied the game at 1-1 late in the first period, Logan Couture put San Jose back in front with a terrific shot off a feed from Marleau. But that play was only made possible after a tremendous backcheck by the former captain.

Marleau appeared to have some extra jump throughout the night, often being the first to a loose puck and showing off his still-blazing speed.

"It looked like he had his 25-year-old legs tonight," Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner said of Marleau after the win.

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Thornton won't be confused for Marleau in the fleet-of-foot category, but he too came up huge in a big moment Thursday night.

San Jose went on the power play within the first minute of overtime, and the franchise's all-time leader in assists added to his total in setting up the game-winning goal. After collecting the puck on the half boards, Thornton found Brent Burns, who powered a blast past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry into the top right corner of the net.

The goal gave the Sharks' two extremely-needed points in standings, and simultaneously moved Thornton into even loftier company. With the assist, he moved past Adam Oates for the seventh-most helpers in NHL history.

Marleau and Thornton might no longer be in their primes, but they both showed Thursday night that they still have something left in the tank. The fact that the Nos. 1 and 2 overall picks from the 1997 NHL Draft both tallied points in a game in 2020 is downright remarkable, and -- while the odds are incredibly low -- it's fun to consider the question: Might a fifth decade be possible?

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from rough 4-2 road loss vs. Flyers


Sharks takeaways: What we learned from rough 4-2 road loss vs. Flyers


The Sharks came out of the trade deadline the same way they went into it, suffering a road loss to an Eastern Conference opponent in which San Jose wasn't all that competitive.

Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center, the Sharks fell behind the Philadelphia Flyers within the opening two minutes, and while they managed to go into the first intermission with the score tied, the latter two-thirds of the game were mostly controlled by the opposition. Philadelphia scored twice in the middle period, and the depleted San Jose lineup lacked the firepower to keep up, ultimately suffering a 4-2 defeat in the City of Brotherly Love.

With the loss, the Sharks conclude a winless four-game road trip in which they were outscored 13-6 and never tallied more than two goals in any single contest.

Here are three takeaways from another loss that revealed San Jose's shortcomings:

Not Burns' best

Several of the Sharks' best players are either injured or now playing for other teams. One of the few that remains in San Jose's lineup -- defenseman Brent Burns -- is unlikely to favorably remember Tuesday's defeat.

The Flyers' first goal of the game came on a power play resulting from a Burns' hooking penalty. He was also on the ice for both of Philadelphia's goals in the second period, at least one of which he likely could have prevented if not for a bad turnover. Offensively, Burns had a rather pedestrian performance for his standards, finishing with zero points and two shots on goal.

In Burns' defense, he has taken on a larger load of the minutes in the aftermath of Erik Karlsson's season-ending injury, averaging nearly 27 minutes per game since the fellow former Norris Trophy winner went down on Feb. 14. That said, San Jose will be at a talent deficit throughout most of its remaining games, and if Burns is struggling, that will be too tough to overcome more often than not.

Ears burning

Prior to Tuesday's game, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson explained that he's looking forward to seeing what some of San Jose's younger, less-proven players can do with their increased opportunities throughout the remainder of the season. Although the Sharks lost to the Flyers, Wilson has to be pleased with certain individual performances.

Of the few youngsters Wilson specifically mentioned by name, Joel Kellman was included. The 25-year-old winger from Sweden didn't take long to show why, pulling San Jose even with the Sharks' first goal of the night. 

Defenseman Jake Middleton got the primary assist on Kellman's goal, just as he did on Tim Heed's goal in the first game of the road trip. Tuesday marked Middleton's fourth NHL game since being called up from the AHL last week, as it did for Noah Gregor, who managed to notch his second goal of the season with a wicked slapshot in the third period.

Kellman, Middleton and Gregor are the type of players Wilson was talking about prior to the game. Afterward, the GM has to like what he saw from them.

[RELATED: Wilson pleased with Sharks' haul, but work is just starting]

Dell dropping off

Tuesday marked the fourth loss in goaltender Aaron Dell's last five starts, over which he has allowed 19 goals against. That's not a good trend, but frankly, it's not as big of a deal as it would have been a few weeks ago.

Heading into the trade deadline, the Sharks had every reason to see what they could get for the pending unrestricted free agent. Had Dell's struggles occurred earlier, it likely would have diminished whatever San Jose got in return for him. Well, no trade was made, and Dell will remain with the Sharks for the duration of the season.

That is likely to be the extent of it, however. Assuming San Jose is unable to unload Martin Jones' hefty contract, it is difficult to see a situation in which Dell re-signs with the Sharks in the offseason. As such, he needs to get back on track, not to build up his value as a trade piece, but rather, as a free agent.

Doug Wilson hopes Sharks' youngsters can help team finish on high note

Doug Wilson hopes Sharks' youngsters can help team finish on high note

The Sharks lost their first four games to the 2019-20 season, and it hasn't gotten much better since. San Jose is all but guaranteed to miss the playoffs for only the second time since Doug Wilson took over as general manager 16 seasons ago, and just as it has been for the players, the disappointing year has been tough on Wilson, too.

"It's been a challenge," Wilson told NBC Sports California's Jamie Baker ahead of the Sharks' game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. "But that happens in life. If you're going to have the success and the moments that you enjoy, then you've got to deal with these things. I'll be honest with you, you learn a lot about people through times like this. Emotions get into play, but what you've got to do is make sure you have clarity to make the right decisions going forward. So, that's the balance you're trying to find during these challenging times."

Wilson and San Jose got more clarity with the passing of the NHL's trade deadline on Monday, as the team sent veteran forwards Patrick Marleau and Barclay Goodrow to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, respectively, in exchange for draft picks. The Sharks also received two draft picks from the Washington Capitals in the Brenden Dillon trade last week.

[RELATED: Wilson pleased with Sharks' haul, but work is just starting]

While the draft picks certainly will help as Wilson tries to build the roster back to a contending state this offseason, the departures of Marleau, Goodrow and Dillon have left large voids in San Jose's lineup, and there are still 20 games left to play. With the Sharks' playoff hopes already dashed, they have every reason to fill those voids with prospects from within the system that might or might not be part of the franchise's future moving forward.

It will be a different kind of finish to the regular season than San Jose is accustomed to, but Wilson is looking forward to seeing what several of those younger players can do with their resulting opportunities.

"There's a lot of them," Wilson said of the prospects. "You take a look at Mario Ferraro -- I think right from Day 1 has been really good -- he's actually stepping up to the next level. You've got a kid, Lean Bergmann, that's been brought in. [Alex True] has come in and [Joel] Kellman's come in, and you're going to see a bunch of guys for the next 20 games or so. And out of this challenging time comes great opportunity. And I think the quality veterans that we have are continuing to instill us playing the right way, which means the young kids can come in and get into good habits. So, we're focused in on that, and there's a little juice and energy when you see these young guys come in."

There hasn't been much positive energy surrounding the Sharks this season. But maybe, just maybe, the youngsters can help San Jose finish the 2019-20 season on a relatively high note.