The Sharks' captain hadn't taken a shootout attempt since Dec. 11, 2009, in the ninth round against the Dallas Stars. He hadn't scored a shootout goal since Dec. 16, 2007, against Anaheim, a game-winner in the sixth round.
Thornton came through again, beating goaltender Ben Scrivens inside the right post, and when San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi stopped Tyler Toffoli, the Sharks owned a 3-2 victory against their Pacific Division rival.
"Coach doesn't tend to look my way in a shootout, but it was nice to be involved in one," said Thornton, who also scored a goal in regulation and moved into sole possession of 50th place on the NHL's all-time points list with 1,143.
The Sharks moved into first place in the Pacific; they and the Anaheim Ducks have 37 points, but Anaheim has played three more games. Both teams are one point ahead of the Kings.
It was the Sharks' 10th straight win at home against the Kings, a streak that includes seven regular-season wins and three in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring.
The Kings have defeated San Jose seven straight times at Staples Center, including a 4-3 overtime victory on Oct. 30. Despite their loss Wednesday, the Kings recorded a point for the 11th straight game, tying a franchise record.
The teams have split two games this season, with each visiting team earning a point by getting past regulation.
"Down in their building, it's a one-goal game," Thornton said. "Tonight it's a one-goal game. Both teams compete hard against each other. You knew it was going to come down to overtime or a shootout and it did. You 're just happy to get the two points."
"We have a team that expects to win, and we have to find a way," Scrivens said. "That starts with me trying to figure how to make an extra save or two in the shootout. Joe has a good reach, but I thought I was there. He got me."
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he thought Thornton was a good fit for the shootout after watching Scrivens go for fakes and get beat by Pavelski, Hertl and Boyle.
"You watch what's happened in front of you and you have an idea of what your shooters can or can't do," McLellan said. "We were beating him with some dekes rather than the shot. We tried to look for people that could do that. Obviously Jumbo's not a big shooter, but he can move his hands pretty well, and he ends up coming up with the win."
Niemi and Scrivens each made 38 saves through 65 minutes.
Carter scored 18 seconds into the game, but the Sharks took a 2-1 lead into the third period after Pavelski and Thornton scored goals in the second.
"It was pretty intense," Kopitar said. "We got off to a good start, and I thought we played well in the second period and we're down 2-1. We got back and went deep into the shootout."
The Kings answered with Doughty's goal at 6:23 of the third period. Doughty got the puck behind the Los Angeles net, brought it all the way into the San Jose zone and sent an apparent pass from the left circle toward Jarret Stoll in the slot. The puck deflected off Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan's right skate and went past Niemi.
The Sharks had three power plays in the third period -- their only opportunities with the extra man all night -- but came up empty. They're now 0-for-10 on the power play in their past four games and 1-for-16 in their past five.
The Sharks killed a penalty late in regulation, then sent a flurry of shots at Scrivens in the closing minute, but he stopped them all, sending the game to overtime.
The Kings jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on Carter's sixth goal.
Center Mike Richards fired the puck wide right of the crease, off the end boards, setting the scoring play in motion. Dwight King laid a big hit on Hertl, got the puck and made a backward pass in front to Carter, who beat Niemi high to the far side.
The rest of the period belonged to the Sharks.
"It's definitely not the way you want to start the game, but the guys did a great job," Hannan said. "We came back and got a lot of shots and that created pressure. Give. L.A. credit. They're a good team. It's going to be a battle, and every time we play them it's going to come down to the wire. And it did tonight."
The Sharks outshot Los Angeles 18-8 in the first period, but couldn't beat Scrivens. Patrick Marleau had a game-high four shots in the first period, while Thornton had three, and Logan Couture, Hertl and Pavelski registered two apiece.
Scrivens made his eighth straight start in place of Jonathan Quick, who sustained a groin injury Nov. 12 against the Buffalo Sabres. Entering the game, Scrivens led the NHL in goals-against average (1.44), save percentage (.947) and shutouts (three). In his first seven starts since Quick's injury, he went 5-0-2 with a 1.27 GAA and .954 save percentage with two shutouts.
The Sharks were outshot 19-7 in the second period, but managed to score twice to take a 2-1 lead.
San Jose pulled even at 2:43 of the second period on Pavelski's ninth goal of the season. Tyler Kennedy ripped a shot from the left circle that Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin blocked, but Pavelski got to the loose puck, moved to his right and wristed a high shot past Scrivens.
"It's kind of the same way they've beaten us on their rink, by one goal, comeback, or however it works out," Pavelski said. "We know we can play with them. We had our chances to win there. They are probably saying the same thing here. We've got to find ways to win in their building, as well, but this was a good win for us tonight."
The Sharks killed a four-minute double minor to Boyle for high-sticking Williams and drawing blood at 6:25.
Thornton gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead at 16:54. Hertl forced a turnover by Doughty in the neutral zone, tracked down the puck and sent it behind the Kings net. Scrivens went behind the net and tried to clear the puck, but a hustling Thornton forced him to retreat to the crease. The Sharks captain beat Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell for control of the puck, which he put off Scrivens' skate and into the net for his third goal of the season.
"I think these are two teams that are pretty evenly matched," McLellan said. "We've had a couple of playoff series with them now. Obviously geographically they are a rival. These are fun games to play. I think both teams like to play against each other. Pretty entertaining night."
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