GLENDALE, Ariz. – Joe Thornton played a season-low 12 minutes in Wednesday's loss to Anaheim, didn't practice with his teammates Thursday and was a game-time decision for Friday's game in Phoenix.
But San Jose's captain not only suited up, he reached a career milestone by becoming the 78th player in NHL history to score 1,000 points. Thornton planted himself near the crease and was in perfect position to bat a Logan Couture rebound out of midair and past Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov 9:27 into the third period to make it 4-2 and jump-start a late rally for the Sharks.
San Jose came up short, losing 4-3 and failing to clinch second place in the Western Conference in the process -- so the individual celebration was muted for Thornton, who now has 11 straight 20-goal seasons and more points (752) than any NHL player since the 2002-03 season.
"You have to be blessed with a good supporting cast, and luckily I've been blessed with a lot of good friends and family and good linemates and good players to play along," Thornton told the San Jose Mercury-News after the game. "There's so many different variables that go into getting that many points and I have so many people to thank."
Thornton, the No. 1 pick in the 1997 Entry Draft by Boston, has 306 goals and 694 assists in 994 regular-season games. He won the NHL scoring title in 2005-06 with 125 points -- 92 of which came after the Sharks acquired him from Boston in late November.
Thornton has 579 points as a Shark after getting 421 with Boston. He joined Vincent Damphousse as the only players to reach 1,000 points while playing for San Jose -- and became the second player to reach 1,000 points this month; Calgary's Jarome Iginla did it on April 1.
Thornton has more points of any player since the start of the 1997-98 season and currently ranks ninth in points among active players. Friday's goal gave him 69 points (21 goals, 48 assists) this season. His first NHL point, also a goal, came against Philadelphia and goaltender Garth Snow on Dec. 3, 1997.
"A thousand points is a thousand points," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said when asked if the Sharks' loss dampened the accomplishment. "You'll take it any way you can get it. It's something he should be extremely proud of and our organization should be proud to have a player of that caliber playing as long as he has here in San Jose. We are all very proud of him."
For the second straight game, Thornton didn't take a single faceoff – an indicator that he's still nowhere near 100 percent. But San Jose was already down two forwards and forced to play seven defensemen with Ryane Clowe injured and Devin Setoguchi suffering an undisclosed injury in pregame warmups. Despite San Jose's first back-to-back regulation losses since mid-March, he's optimistic about a long postseason run.
"We feel good about our club and we feel confident," said Thornton, who nearly had the historic point an hour earlier but rang a second-period shot off the post.
"We've got three more periods (Saturday) before the big party starts. We go home and play these guys (Phoenix) right back again and I think we'll be sharper tomorrow."