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Sharks 5, Sabres 0 @NHLdotcom

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Joe Thornton gave the slumping San Jose Sharks just the lift they needed.

Thornton had two assists in his debut with San Jose, setting up Jonathan Cheechoo twice, and the Sharks snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 5-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.

"I'm a San Jose Shark," Thornton said. "I felt really comfortable out there, and this feels really good."

Thornton, acquired Wednesday in a four-player, blockbuster deal with the Boston Bruins, made an immediate impact on a team that was looking for a spark. His presence jolted his new club, which hadn't won since beating Anaheim 1-0 in overtime on Nov. 4.

Starting between his cousin Scott and Cheechoo, Thornton rang a shot off the outside edge of the post just nine seconds in.

"It was kind of a knuckleball, but I thought, 'Man, that's a good sign,"' Scott Thornton said.

Joe also was pleased with his quick scoring chance.

"Yeah, that was something," he said. "That's when you think that things are going to be all right."

And that's exactly what it was Friday, as San Jose never looked back after grabbing a 3-0 lead in the first six minutes.

"The first couple of shifts we sustained pressure in their end, and had good control," Cheechoo said. "When you spend that much time in their end, I think everybody gets a little more energized."

Thornton's debut was slightly tainted, though, as goaltender Evgeni Nabokov injured his groin in the second period, and left the game with 11:20 to go after making 20 saves.

Nabokov, who won for the fourth time this season, immediately went to the dressing room and was relieved by Nolan Schaefer.

"It was more of a precautionary thing," said Nabokov, who missed eight games earlier this season with a shoulder injury. "We'll see how it feels (Saturday)."

Grant Stevenson, Milan Michalek, and Nicholas Dimitrakos also scored for the Sharks. But it was Thornton who stole the show.

"I think that first shot that Joe clanked off the pipe might have shaken them up a little bit," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "He provided a spark, but for the first time in a while we got a couple of breaks early in the game."

The Sabres had their five-game winning streak snapped, and looked sluggish after beating Montreal in overtime Thursday night. It was also Buffalo's first loss in regulation in 10 games (8-1-1).

"A big trade like that gave them a lot of momentum right off the bat," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought they were pretty fired up."

San Jose (9-12-4), the last place-team in the Pacific Division, scored four goals in the first 11 1/2 minutes, including three in a 2-minute span to chase goalie Mika Noronen. Noronen made his first start since injuring his groin in a shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Nov. 22, and appeared to be hampered while stopping only seven of 11 shots.

Martin Biron relieved Noronen after Dimitrakos' goal made it 4-0.

The Sharks increased their lead to five just over 2 minutes into the second period on a two-man advantage when Cheechoo scored his second of the game and ninth of the season. Standing to the right of Biron, Cheechoo banged home Thornton's slick cross-ice pass from the bottom of the right circle.

"I don't think Joe even knew who Jonathan Cheechoo was before he came here, in the sense that he scored 28 goals for us two years ago," Wilson said.

San Jose won for the first time in 12 tries in Buffalo, the only NHL city where the Sharks had never registered a point.

Notes: Buffalo RW J.P. Dumont was diagnosed with a sports hernia that will most likely require surgery. He hasn't played since Nov. 17. ... Sabres forward Chris Thorburn made his NHL debut after being called up from Rochester of the AHL earlier in the day. ... Nabokov, who was 0-6-4 since his last win, wasn't sure if he would be able to play in Toronto on Saturday. ... Buffalo's last loss in regulation was a 6-1 defeat in Ottawa on Nov. 12.

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