Thornton had a goal and three assists and Jonathan Cheechoo also scored one of San Jose's franchise-record five power play goals as the Sharks beat the short-handed Red Wings 5-1 on Tuesday night.
Brett Lebda scored for the Red Wings, who had their six-game winning streak snapped.
"They were obviously missing five key players and we're trying to gain that final playoff spot," Thornton said. "We need every win, every game. I hope we make the playoffs and face them again."
With Swedish gold-medalists Nicklas Lidstrom, Mikael Samuelsson, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom getting an extra day off, the Red Wings relied on a makeshift lineup without much success. Detroit had killed off 45 of its last 47 penalties entering the contest, and 73 of 78 before being blitzed by San Jose's power play on Tuesday.
Nils Ekman, Christian Ehrhoff and Patrick Marleau also scored for the Sharks, who won their fourth straight game.
"For any team it's tough if you take five key guys out of the lineup," Red Wings goalie Manny Legace said. "That's no excuse, no excuse at all. We were in the game until the 10-minute mark. I've just got to make saves on penalty kills. I didn't tonight and it cost us.'
The Sharks drew within four points of the Oilers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
"It's important to get back on a good roll," Ehrhoff said. "We know we're good and we're still developing. We just need to go into those games and keep winning."
Ekman opened the scoring for the Sharks, taking a pass from Thornton at the red line beating Legace through the five-hole.
Cheechoo recorded his 35th goal of the season in the second period during a 5-on-3 advantage. He had an easy shot after Thornton drew the defense away from the net.
"Tonight was kind of an anomaly," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "You're not going to threaten teams with five power play goals. Since we picked up Joe, though, we've had one of the most dangerous power plays in the league."
Lebda scored his first goal since Nov. 1, a span of 37 games, with 1:31 left in the second period. He took a drop pass from Brendan Shanahan and shot it past Sharks goalie Vesa Toskala, who had 28 saves.
Ehrhoff, Marleau and Thornton all added power-play goals in the third period.
"It's disappointing," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "They found a way to shoot it into the net and we weren't as good."
Notes: C Tomas Kopecky was recalled from Grand Rapids on Monday and made his NHL debut for Detroit. ... Thornton has 14 assists in his last nine games. ... The Red Wings were missing 37 percent of their goal production with the Swedes getting an extra day off. ... Ekman scored a goal in consecutive games for the second time this season. ... Shanahan has recorded points in 11 of his last 15 games after ending a seven-game scoreless streak. ... Legace stopped Ekman's penalty shot midway through the third period.
|PPG - Nisse Ekman (15) ASST: Joe Thornton (61), Jonathan Cheechoo (23)|
1 - 0 SJS
|PPG - Jonathan Cheechoo (35) ASST: Joe Thornton (62), Patrick Marleau (40)|
2 - 0 SJS
|Brett Lebda (3) ASST: Brendan Shanahan (27), Pavel Datsyuk (46)|
2 - 1 SJS
|PPG - Patrick Marleau (26) ASST: Nisse Ekman (23), Joe Thornton (63)|
3 - 1 SJS
|PPG - Christian Ehrhoff (2) ASST: Patrick Marleau (41), Jonathan Cheechoo (24)|
4 - 1 SJS
|PPG - Joe Thornton (22) ASST: Christian Ehrhoff (13), Tom Preissing (17)|
5 - 1 SJS
|Christian Ehrhoff Holding against Kris Draper|
|Tomas Kopecky Tripping against Scott Hannan|
|Douglas Murray Holding against Mark Mowers|
|Chris Chelios Interference against Milan Michalek|
|Kirk Maltby Hooking against Milan Michalek|
|Scott Thornton Hooking against Chris Chelios|
|Jason Williams Hooking against Christian Ehrhoff|
|Andreas Lilja Hi-sticking against Joe Thornton|
|Jason Woolley Hooking against Milan Michalek|
|Nisse Ekman Hooking against Chris Chelios|
|Kyle McLaren Holding against Pavel Datsyuk|
|Mathieu Schneider Holding against Steve Bernier|
|Brendan Shanahan Tripping against Scott Thornton|
|Mark Mowers Roughing against Steve Bernier|
|Steve Bernier Roughing against Mark Mowers|
|Brendan Shanahan Slashing against Scott Hannan|
|Douglas Murray Boarding against Kirk Maltby|
|Tom Preissing Holding against Kris Draper|
|Kris Draper Slashing against Scott Hannan|