Sharks reflect on Joe Thornton passing Gordie Howe on all-time assists list

Sharks reflect on Joe Thornton passing Gordie Howe on all-time assists list

You could point to a lot of big moments over the Sharks highly-successful four-game road trip through Canada. Getting the best of a tough Winnipeg Jets team. Keeping their emotions in check against the Calgary Flames and getting their revenge on the scoreboard.

But if there was one highlight that capped the roadie off perfectly, it was the one that took place Monday evening in Vancouver when Joe Thornton passed Gordie Howe on the NHL's all-time assists list.

“There are really no words,” teammate Logan Couture told the media after the Thornton tallied the record-breaking assist in San Jose’s 7-2 win over the Canucks. “To say I’m in the dressing room with a guy that’s ahead of Gordie Howe now. It’s pretty crazy.”

Thornton has been reaching plenty of milestones over the course of this season -- one he began battling back from the aftermath of having knee surgery. Jumbo’s teammates have always spoken highly of him. Whenever he’s reached a milestone during the 2018-19 campaign, they’ve pointed out how hard he works, how much of a legend he truly is.

Scoring his 400th career goal was a pretty big moment. Tying Teemu Selanne on the NHL’s all-time points list on Monday evening is a big deal, too. But in the second period against the Canucks, Thornton won a puck battle in San Jose territory and motored up the ice to set up Kevin Labanc for a goal. That assist put Thornton ahead of Mr. Hockey -- and that moment put him on a whole other level.

“When you pass Gordie Howe on any list, I don’t care what list it is, that’s the story of the night,” Sharks’ head coach Peter DeBoer said. “That’s an unbelievable accomplishment. Unbelievable career.”

“He’s a special player,” Couture continued. “He’s been a special player for two decades.”

Those two decades have seen plenty of ups and downs for No. 19, yet the seasoned veteran has continued to work through whatever adversity comes his way. It’s that unwavering work ethic and continuous high level of compete that makes it so hard to believe when Thornton doesn’t always get the celebrated reaction he deserves. Heck, who knows if fans will ever get over him being snubbed from that 100 Greatest Players list a couple years back. His teammates don’t appear to have let such things go.

“I still believe that he’s underrated,” Couture admitted. “I still don’t think he gets the credit he deserves for how world class of a player he has been over two decades.”

But Monday night was no time for dwelling on the negatives. Joe Thornton now sits on a list ahead of one of the most decorated skaters to ever play the game. 

“That’s something that should be celebrated,” DeBoer said. “I think our whole group is excited we were here to witness that.”

Sharks displeased with controversial calls in overtime loss to Bruins


Sharks displeased with controversial calls in overtime loss to Bruins

SAN JOSE -- Suffice to say, the Sharks’ Monday night contest against the Bruins didn’t end the way they wanted it to. Not just because they got only one point in the standings from the 6-5 overtime loss, but because of one particular call that was made toward the end of the game.

San Jose was dialed in and holding down the fort to ensure they got a would-be 5-4 victory fueled by Joe Thornton’s hat trick. But then, Bruins’ forward Chris Wagner registered the tying goal by swatting the puck out of the air with his stick, which looked like a high-stick play. Wagner then gave the puck an extra nudge as it trickled into the net with just a little over one minute left in regulation.

Per the NHL rulebook, high-sticking the puck -- as the rule says, “battling the puck above the normal height of the shoulders” -- should have negated the goal. In Monday’s game, the officials decided the puck was played low enough for the goal to count and for the game to be tied. The Sharks revealed after the game that wasn’t how they saw it.

“I was right there on the play and it was pretty clear it was above both the crossbar and his shoulders,” Logan Couture said. “I think it was above his eyesight.”

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer didn’t agree with the call either, calling it one of a few calls he didn’t particularly agree with at the end of the game. “I’m sure we’ll get an explanation and some type of apology,” he said frankly. “It doesn’t help us in the standings but that’s usually how it works.”

The call was also confusing in that the Sharks weren’t able to review it afterward. (It’s possibly because Wagner tapped the puck in legally after knocking it down with his stick, but the league has yet to provide an explanation.) All the same, the ruling put San Jose in a tough position.

“They said it was under his shoulder and then he put it in, so the call stands, and it sounded like it wasn’t reviewable,” Joe Pavelski relayed to the media post-game. “Maybe a little glitch in the rule there. We’re a little unlucky that we can’t challenge it. I haven’t seen it close up, but it felt like it was high.”

The tying goal then set Boston up to tally the game-winner in overtime -- a tough pill for San Jose to swallow after they’d battled back from a 3-0 first-period deficit to take a 5-4 lead in the third frame. Plus, as DeBoer pointed out, the decision gave the Sharks only one point on the evening, so they couldn’t keep pace in the standings with the Calgary Flames, who defeated the Arizona Coyotes earlier on Monday 5-2.

[RELATED: Expect Sharks-Flames division race to go down to the wire]

At the end of the day, the Sharks weren’t completely unhappy with how they rallied and played against a tough Boston team. But that doesn’t mean they have to be happy with that controversial call at the end of regulation.

“I’m sure the refs are going to watch it and they’ll probably feel bad about this one,” Couture said.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 6-5 overtime loss vs. Bruins

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 6-5 overtime loss vs. Bruins

SAN JOSE -- Monday night’s contest between the Sharks and the Bruins was billed as a must-see, playoff-caliber matchup. And boy, was it a roller coaster ride.

Fueled by a hat trick from Joe Thornton, the Sharks roared back from a three-goal deficit to stay neck-and-neck with a tough Bruins squad. The high-octane contest went all the way into a very intense overtime, which ended with the Bruins emerging victorious, 6-5.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s game:

Joe Thornton had himself a game

Long story short, Thornton put on a top notch performance. He was buzzing all evening, looking confident while collecting all three of his goals. It’s hard to pinpoint which goal was the most impressive -- although his reaction when he notched his third goal was pretty spectacular. 

Of course, Thornton’s three goals on the evening also elevated him further up the NHL’s all-time points list, closer to catching Stan Mikita at 1,467 points. While he may be hitting new milestones almost every game, the way he did it on Monday evening was extra enjoyable to watch.

You can’t ever count this team out

There were likely many viewers who wanted to turn the game off when the Sharks went down 3-0 in the first frame. But thanks to Thornton’s first goal on the evening -- which occurred with two seconds left in the first period -- San Jose got a boost to roar back in the second stanza and tie things up.

San Jose really turned up the heat in the third period, taking advantage of the fact Boston was at the end of their road trip through California and a bit gassed. That’s the kind of resiliency a team needs not just at the end of the regular season, but headed into the playoffs. It’s just unfortunate the Sharks didn’t get the win out of it.

On a less positive note …

San Jose is still taking too many trips to the sin bin

When NBC Sports California asked Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer what San Jose had to beware of in facing Boston, he named the Bruins’ dominance on the man advantage. “They’re elite in certain areas like their power play,” he said. “Last game we took too many penalties. When you play a team like this you have to be clean in all those areas.”

While two of the Sharks’ penalty kills were masterful, they also couldn’t completely contain the second-ranked power play in the league. Win or lose, this is an area the Sharks want to clean up.

Although, let’s be honest -- Logan Couture's short-handed penalty shot goal was fun to watch.