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.
TONIGHT: Zdeno Chara, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are set to become the 12th, 13th and 14th players in NHL history to play at least one game in four or more different decades. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/DtDoGrZhOf— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 2, 2020
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.
The wrister from the captain 🤩 pic.twitter.com/fla0AQpsFd— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) January 3, 2020
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.
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.
BRENT. BURNS. GAME. OVER. pic.twitter.com/Upef3JI8UP— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) January 3, 2020
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.
Not a bad way to start your fourth decade in the NHL.@SanJoseSharks forward Joe Thornton collected his 1,080th career regular-season assist to pass Adam Oates (1,079) for sole possession of seventh place on the League’s all-time list. https://t.co/9gqdmWDszs #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/s26iIm8nfT— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 3, 2020
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?