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Thornton gives sluggish Sharks spark in Game 1 win against Avalanche

Provides emotional lift with goal, assist in Pavelski's absence

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

SAN JOSE -- It might have taken Joe Thornton a bit of time to get up to speed on Friday, but when he did, the big centerman took the final 30 minutes of hockey and gave it a good shake by the scruff of its neck.

Thornton had a goal, an assist, three shots and was plus-3 in the San Jose Sharks' 5-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche at SAP Center, putting the Sharks up 1-0 in the best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round. Game 2 is here on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS).

Thornton, a greybeard who will turn 40 on July 2, converted a pass feathered by linemate Marcus Sorensen at 10:05 of the second period to pull the Sharks into a 2-2 tie. It was a dramatic turn of events considering San Jose had just killed a four-minute Avalanche power-play, a kill that Thornton said "probably won us the game.

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Avalanche series coverage]

 

"Marcus made a great play. That's all Marcus. [It was] a great little saucer pass over and I just really had to hit the net and it was in. …

"The first period was a struggle, to be honest with you. I don't think we had too much energy early on but we kind of felt our groove … as the game went on. We just continued to go at them. It was a tough game for us, it really was."

Coach Peter DeBoer had high praise for Thornton and the example he sets both on and off the ice.

"[Thornton] is the face of the franchise here for over a decade," DeBoer said. "Him and our leadership group really set the tempo every day with their work ethic, their commitment to come in, and they love it. They are the first guys at the rink, they are the last guys to leave. ... That allows you to bring in layers of younger guys underneath that learn to work and learn that kind of commitment, too."

Video: COL@SJS, Gm1: Thornton beats Grubauer on odd-man rush

The Sharks fought back twice from a goal down before seizing the lead for the first time at 16:02 of the second period on Kevin Labanc's goal. 

It came 5:57 after Thornton's, Labanc threading between Thornton and Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen, slipping the puck through Rantanen's skates before cutting back into the deep slot and beating goalie Philipp Grubauer with a 29-foot wrist shot to the top corner.

"What a beauty," Thornton said. "Just a beautiful goal. [Labanc] has found some confidence from Game 7 (a four-point night to eliminate the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday) and continued tonight. A world-class goal, what can I say."

Labanc was similarly in awe of the man known as Jumbo, marveling at Thornton's silky goal.

"It was awesome, it was a great goal," Labanc said. "Marcus was so tired, it was such a long shift for him, but he got it through and Jumbo just made a good shot (and it) kind of got the whole rink going."

Video: Thornton's goal, assist propels Sharks to Game 1 win

Thornton said the presence of captain Joe Pavelski was an important part of the victory. Pavelski was injured on Tuesday and DeBoer said Friday he is day to day for a return.

"He's been around quite a bit, too," Thornton said of Pavelski. "We like seeing him here. We're trying to win as many games as we can so we can see him back on the ice. We just keep winning and hopefully he gets healthy and can join us at some point."

The Game 1 victory, Thornton admitted, "is one game, a small snapshot."

Perhaps so, but on Friday, Jumbo Joe had them waxing poetic again after another giant night's work.

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