Joe Thornton

Sharks' forward Joe Thornton continues reaching career and NHL milestones

Sharks' forward Joe Thornton continues reaching career and NHL milestones

There’s no denying one of the big highlights of the San Jose Sharks’ season thus far was Joe Thornton scoring his 400th career goal. It was pure pandemonium as Marcus Sorensen’s dish landed right on No. 19’s stick and he flipped into the back of the net, sending both the players on the ice and the fans in their seats into a frenzy.

But the milestone tracker didn’t turn off there.

Viewers at home may have noticed it most times Thornton is shown on their TV screen. Fans attending games surely pay attention when he’s shown on the center-ice cube with a swanky stat next to his face – which is often followed by him looking up and cracking a smile.

Thornton is continuing to pave his path into the Hall of Fame, and we’re all just here to witness it.

Since tallying that 400-goal marker he’s continued to collect points and make his way up both the NHL’s all-time points list and assists lists. On November 23, his set up of Timo Meier’s power-play goal against the Vancouver Canucks helped him pass Mario Lemieux on the league’s all-time assists list. It also put him just 24 points out of reach of 15th on the all-time points list – a perch currently being occupied by another hockey great, Teemu Selanne.

This past Wednesday night against the Hurricanes, Thornton did it again. The set-up man extraordinaire collected three apples on the evening to register the 58th three-assists game of his career. To put into perspective how big of an accomplishment that is, Steve Yzerman and Jaromir Jagr each tallied 59 three-assist contests during their tenures in the league. 

The feat also tied Thornton for 10th with former Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic on the NHL’s all-time list for multi-assist games. Of course, the three markers also bring him to 1,037 career assists, just three behind Marcel Dionne at 10th place on the NHL all-time list.

With the rate at which he’s putting his mark of the game of hockey, it’s easy to forget how the season started for Jumbo Joe. He played just two regular season games at the start of the 2018-19 campaign before swelling in his surgically-repaired right knee sidelined him for a couple weeks. But the setback – added to the amount of recovery time he had to put in last season – never appeared to deter the 39-year-old forward from getting back to a place where he could help San Jose win.

In the days leading up to his return, Thornton was always one of the first skaters on the ice at Sharks practice, working with his teammates on his way to getting back into games.

“That’s a lot of recovery and rehab,” teammate Kevin Labanc told NBC Sports California after Thornton notched his 400th goal, “and for him to come back and be just as good as he is… It’s just incredible.”

What’s incredible still is that the 39-year-old forward is continuing to put that hard work to use night after night. And, night after night, he surpasses another milestone. With so much hockey still left this season, it’s anyone’s guess how quickly Thornton will reach his next milestone.

Watch Sharks' Joe Thornton pass Mario Lemieux on NHL assists list

Watch Sharks' Joe Thornton pass Mario Lemieux on NHL assists list

Joe Thornton passed a legend on the NHL's all-time assists list. 

Thornton set up Timo Meier's first-period power-play goal Friday against the Vancouver Canucks, and picked up the 1,034th of his career. That's the 11th-most assists in league history, and Thornton officially surpassed Mario Lemieux's career total.

After adding another assist in the third period, 39-year-old is now six assists away from passing Marcel Dionne and entering the top 10, with 59 games remaining this regular season. Every player in the top 10, as well as Lemieux, is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

Ten days ago, Thornton became the 97th player to score 400 goals, and only the 11th in NHL history to also have 1000 assists. He needs 24 points to overtake Teemu Selanne for 15th all-time on the NHL's scoring list. 

His assist Friday was his seventh point in 14 games. If he keeps up a half-point per game pace over the remainder of the season, passing Selanne is well within reach. 

Why Sharks' tension with Nazem Kadri boiled over in loss to Maple Leafs

Why Sharks' tension with Nazem Kadri boiled over in loss to Maple Leafs

SAN JOSE -- Barclay Goodrow wasn’t happy with Nazem Kadri.

The two jawed before the opening face-off Thursday night, and Goodrow grabbed the Toronto Maple Leafs center once the puck was dropped, trying to make him drop the gloves. Kadri would not, and the Sharks forward alone headed to the box for roughing eight seconds in.

It was a chippy start for teams that only play twice a season. So, what set off Goodrow?

“[Kadri] chose to fight Jumbo last year off of the opening face-off,” Goodrow told reporters after the Sharks’ 5-3 loss, “who quite frankly shouldn’t have to do that. So, I thought I would try to return the favor.” 

Let’s rewind to Jan. 4 in Toronto, when the teams last met. 

Kadri and Thornton jockeyed for stick position ahead of the opening face-off. The two traded slashes, then words, and finally punches after they were kicked out of the face-off circle before the puck was dropped. 

Kadri also grabbed a piece of Thornton’s beard in the fight, but said at the time that it was unintentional. He told reporters Thursday he figured that fight caused the immediate tension.

“I’m not quite sure why they were still so bitter about it,” Kadri said, “especially when he’s the one [who] initiated it with me, so it’s not like I went out looking for it. … I kind of knew they were pretty agitated from the start, and I figured I’d run with that.” 

The Leafs scored seconds after the ensuing power play expired. 

With the man advantage winding down, Toronto center John Tavares threw the puck in front of the net from behind the goal line. The puck bounced off San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s skate and helplessly through goaltender Martin Jones’ pads.

Up to that point, the Sharks allowed one shot on goal and three attempts on the penalty kill. 

"The biggest thing is [Kadri] got us a power play to start the game,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “They're gonna say it's not a power-play goal because I think there was one second or something [on the clock], but that's a power-play goal. It's a great way to start the game.”

Kadri, who is known for getting under his opponents’ skin, was hit a game-high six times. He drew another penalty later in the first period, then drew and received two of his own when he and Sharks winger Melker Karlsson were twice penalized for roughing in the third.

Still, the Sharks out-attempted (18-16), outshot (11-7), and out-chanced (9-5) the Leafs with Kadri on the ice five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick. San Jose tied the score 3:18 after Tavares’ tally, and held a lead at the end of the first period. 

[RELATED: DeBoer talks Sharks' defensive woes against Leafs]

Goodrow and Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said they did not think Kadri threw the Sharks off their game. DeBoer thought Kadri “crossed the line” fighting Thornton, but said the pre-puck drop confrontation “was the end of it.”

If there is any remaining tension, we’ll know in fewer than two weeks. The Sharks and Leafs conclude their season series Nov. 28 in Toronto.