Sharks’ Thornton registers 1,000th career assist on Pavelski’s goal vs Jets

Sharks’ Thornton registers 1,000th career assist on Pavelski’s goal vs Jets

While he was approaching 1,000 career NHL assists, Joe Thornton said he hadn’t really looked at the names of the other players in history that had reached that lofty mark.

“I think once it hits I’ll kind of peek and see who’s on that list,” Thornton said late last month.

Now, he can finally look. The 37-year-old recorded the secondary assist on Joe Pavelski’s empty net goal on Monday in Winnipeg, helping the Sharks to a 3-2 win. Mark Scheifele scored a power play goal with seven seconds left, so Pavelski’s second score of the night ended up as the game-winner.

On the milestone goal, Thornton seized a loose puck in the defensive zone and slid it over to Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Vlasic pushed it ahead to Pavelski, who wheeled around at the offensive blue line and skidded it into the open net off of the stick of Nikolaj Ehlers at 19:34.

The game was also Thornton’s 900th game in a Sharks sweater. He’s averaged more than a point-per game since a trade on Nov. 30, 2005 made San Jose a perennial contender, with 928 points overall (213g, 715a).

Not surprisingly, Thornton passed on much of the credit on to his teammates in a postgame interview with CSN on Monday.

“I’ve been honored to play with so many good players and so many good scorers,” he said. “I think for me over the years that’s been the key, just staying healthy and playing with so many great players.”

“It's an incredible number, incredible accomplishment,” coach Pete DeBoer told reporters. “It's something that I'll tell my grandkids, that I was on the bench and witnessed it.”

Among the players that have scored the most goals assisted by Thornton, Patrick Marleau is at the top with 120. Pavelski is close behind with 113, while Jonathan Cheechoo (89 goals assisted by Thornton), Boston’s Glen Murray (70) and Brent Burns (50) have also benefited from being on the ice at the same time as the best player in Sharks franchise history.

Logan Couture said: “He finds guys in the slot. Obviously he’s made some tremendous passes over the years, and guys have put it in the back of the net. … The way he’s able to kind of take a quick peek out of the corner of his eye and find someone and deliver it through feet and sticks and all that stuff, it’s pretty special.”

When Thornton has a glance at the all-time assist leaders, he’ll see Joe Sakic directly ahead of him with 1,016. A strong finish to the regular season could move Thornton another place higher.

Others include Wayne Gretzky (1963), Ron Francis (1249), Mark Messier (1193), Jaromir Jagr (1142), Paul Coffey (1135), Adam Oates (1079), Steve Yzerman (1063), Gordie Howe (1049), Marcel Dionne (1040) and Mario Lemieux (1033). All of those players, other than the still-active Jagr, are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Thornton is almost surely to join them, reaching 1,000 career assists in the sixth-fewest number of games (1,432). He is just the second player in to debut during the 1990s to reach 1000 career assists, joining Jagr.

Thornton was originally drafted first overall by Boston in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. In 65 games this season, he has 41 points (5g, 36a).

Banged-up Sharks make no excuses for losing streak after loss to Kings

Banged-up Sharks make no excuses for losing streak after loss to Kings

After the Sharks' losing streak hit four games in a 4-2 loss to the cellar-dwelling Los Angeles Kings, defenseman Brent Burns summarized it best to reporters in L.A.

“Every loss is doomsday, and every win feels good.”

Unfortunately for the Sharks, that doesn’t make Thursday’s defeat at the hands of the Kings sting any less.

With the defeat, the Sharks matched their season-long losing streak at four games – against the second-worst team in the entire NHL, no less. San Jose even entered the third period with a 2-1 lead, having taken over the pace of play in the second stanza and hemming even the Kings' best players in their own end.

Then, the Kings scored three unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes to emerge victorious. 

Meanwhile, the two Pacific Division teams bookending the Sharks in the standings – the Calgary Flames and the Vegas Golden Knights – are both on hot streaks and kept winning on Thursday while Team Teal was in L.A.

Nobody’s going to sugarcoat it – the Sharks know they have to be better.

“It’s a wake-up call for us,” center Tomas Hertl said. “We have to be ready because we have just eight games left. We saw how Calgary is playing right now, and we have to step it up.”

As if the Sharks weren’t already desperate for a win after dropping three straight contests, they got some bad news just before pregame warmups that center Logan Couture was a late scratch due to flu-like symptoms. With captain Joe Pavelski and defenseman Erik Karlsson already out, San Jose needed someone else to fill that void. 

“It’s always tough when you’re missing players like that,” Hertl said. “But we have a lot of skill and we didn’t improve (on) it today.”

Coach Peter DeBoer doubled down on not making excuses for big players being out of the lineup.

“You got to win this game anyway,” he told reporters. “You’ve got to find a way. Someone’s got to step up and be a first star. You’ve got to get a great performance from somebody in a game like this and I don’t think we got that.”

[RELATED: Watch Ron Burgundy's funny call of Hertl's goal vs. Kings]

With only eight games left in the regular season, San Jose needs to right the ship before embarking on a playoff run.

Getting Couture, Pavelski, and Karlsson back in the lineup healthy will certainly help. But, the Sharks' defensive effort and overall level of intensity has to be better. They’ve been outscored 19-9 over these last four games, and gone 1-for-13 on the power play. While there’s concern over this losing stretch, the Sharks have to buckle down and find a way to win immediately. 

“We’ve got to find a way to win some games,” DeBoer said. “We’re a little bit beat up, but you can’t use excuses this time of year. We need some guys to find another level for us. At this time of year, you need someone to give you a first-star performance either in net or up front or somewhere to stop the bleeding. We haven’t gotten that.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-2 loss to struggling Kings

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-2 loss to struggling Kings

The Sharks didn't play their prettiest game in Thursday's season-series finale with the Los Angeles Kings. Despite holding a lead headed into the third period, San Jose’s losing streak was stretched to four games as they fell to their LA rivals 4-2.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday’s game:

The first and third periods were, as DeBoer might say, ‘fugly’

If you hadn’t watched the Sharks play all season and tuned into Thursday’s game, you were probably shocked this team is in second place in the Pacific Division. San Jose came out discombobulated, turning the puck over so much that it’s no wonder the Kings scored the first goal on the evening. It’s impressive the Sharks were able to tie the game before the first intermission, with just four shots on goal through 20 minutes.

San Jose picked up momentum in the second stanza and took over the pace of the game. But, the Kings were able to swing that momentum back in their favor. For a team that’s punched their playoff ticket already, this is a trend that can’t continue.

On Martin Jones’ performance

Not surprisingly, all eyes were on Jones after he was given the hook last game against the Vegas Golden Knights. The goaltender needed to have a rebound evening, and after giving up the first goal on the night, it didn’t look like he was going to be able to make that happen.

He did a good job buckling down after that despite, Los Angeles continuing to outshoot San Jose. He had a few nice saves, but the Sharks’ defensive lapses in the third period did him no favors.

[RELATED: Watch Ron Burgundy's funny call of Hertl's goal vs. Kings]

Something has to give

We know – the Sharks are banged-up right now. They’re missing key players and nearing the end of a long season. But at this point, following up a six-game winning streak by losing four games – and one to the lowly Kings – is cause for concern.

Whether it’s getting healthy or just getting a few lucky bounces, the Sharks need to regroup quickly. San Jose spent stretches of Thursday’s game looking lost, and couldn’t capitalize on two power-play opportunities.

If the Sharks don’t right the ship soon, their stint in the playoffs is going to be short.