Thornton hat trick sparks Sharks by Devils, 5-2

San Jose Sharks

– Joe Thornton shot up the NHL scoring list Wednesday with a hat
trick and two assists as the San Jose Sharks turned back the
visiting New Jersey Devils 5-2 at sold-out HP Pavilion.
SAN JOSE – Joe Thornton shot up the NHL scoring list Wednesday with a hat trick and two assists as the San Jose Sharks turned back the visiting New Jersey Devils 5-2 at sold-out HP Pavilion.

Entering Wednesday’s play, only 15 NHL skaters held double digits in points. Thornton’s fifth point of the night, an assist at 6:47 of the third period, gave the centerman a team-high 12 points and a likely spot in the top dozen among the elite scorers by night’s end.

San Jose and Los Angeles were the lone Pacific Division teams in action Wednesday. Division leader Los Angeles fell 3-1 to Chicago to remain at 12 points. San Jose joined Anaheim, Saturday’s opponent at HP Pavilion, in third place with nine points.

After San Jose fashioned a 3-0 lead after one period, the Devils threatened to get back in the game when David Clarkson took advantage of an erratic bounce off the endboards in the San Jose end to line the puck into an open net 3:06 into the second period.

Thornton’s third goal of the night gave the Sharks the three-goal lead back.

Devil goaltender Martin Brodeur tried the clear the puck during a penalty kill. Dany Heatley intercepted the play at the blueline and whipped the puck toward the endboards. As Brodeur went toward the back of the net, the puck, as in the Clarkson goal, bounded back in front of the crease. Thornton one-timed the shot into the open net from point-blank range at 16:55 of the second period.

Thornton had three prior hat tricks, including his lone hat trick for San Jose March 25, 2008 in Phoenix.

Heatley netted his fourth point of the night when he redirected a centering pass from Thornton over Brodeur’s shoulder at 6:47. Heatley has earned seven points in his last four games. Patrick Marleau completed his scoring with his fourth point, third assist, as San Jose improved to 4-3-1.

“The key for this line is movement, spacing,” said Heatley. “We were moving, supporting each other.”

New Jersey closed the scoring when defenseman Andy Greene scored a power play goal at 14:22 of the third.

The Sharks took control of the game with three unanswered even-strength goals by the top line of Thornton, Marleau and Heatley in the first period.

Marleau, shut out of the scoring column the past two games and sitting on 699 career points, blasted through the 700-point barrier easily in the first 20 minutes with a goal and two assists.

Marleau ignited the scoring play that gave San Jose a 1-0 lead with 9:57 gone in the game. Marleau knocked down a potential clearing pass from the Devils at the New Jersey blueline, sending the puck to Heatley at the left point. Heatley’s quick offering to Thornton in the left circle allowed the captain to whip the puck from the left dot under Brodeur. Thornton was tied for the moment in goals for the Sharks with three, while Marleau’s helper lifted him to 700 career points.

Marleau made it 2-0 when the line next hit the ice. First Heatley and then Thornton battled for the puck with Greene behind the New Jersey net before the puck squirted toward the net. Marleau jetted around the net, gained control of the puck and quickly completed a wrap-around shot that beat Brodeur at the right post at the 11:16 mark. Heatley had his second assist of the night, Thornton his second point.

When defenseman Jason Demers drilled the puck along the boards in the Devil zone late in the period, Marleau was able to control the puck at the right goalline and direct a pass toward the net. Both Thornton and Heatley were at the edge of the crease. Thornton was able to skate around the prone Brodeur and stuff the puck into the net for his team-high fourth goal of the season.

While Marleau picked up an assist on the play, an off-ice review switched the second assist from Heatley to Demers.

“A couple of the goals were off bad bounces,” said Thornton. “(Brodeur) fell on the second goal. The third was the easiest one of the year.”

San Jose coach Todd McLellan acknowledged that “some of the things we worked on in practice were effective (tonight) and they used it.

“(The top line gave) a really impressive performance, when it comes to leadership,” McLellan commented on how the team responded to Saturday’s 4-0 loss in Calgary. McLellan concluded by noting that the team should “not get comfortable, but they are allowed to enjoy a hard-fought win.”

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