In typical Thornton fashion, the big center became the 18th active player in the League with 300 goals when he scored Feb. 22 on the way to leading San Jose to a 4-3 victory against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
Thornton, who joined Mark Recchi, Mike Modano and Teemu Selanne as the only active players with at least 300 goals and 680 assists, gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead on his milestone goal, a power-play score with just 7.4 seconds remaining in the first period.
"It's nice," Thornton said of his milestone goal. "I didn't know until Patty (Marleau) told me."
The goal was much like any of the previous 299 he had scored in a career that now is in its 13th season. After fighting off a check at the side of the Red Wings net, Thornton moved into prime position in the slot to sweep home the rebound of a point shot by Dan Boyle. The goal was Thornton's 15th of the season.
"He's very good with the puck and he uses his size to his advantage," Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said of Thornton. "He's hard to defend with or without the puck."
Since being acquired by San Jose in exchange for Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau in November 2005, Thornton has established the franchise's all-time record for assists (398). He currently leads the Sharks with 52 points, is first in the League with 89 takeaways and tied for ninth with 9 power-play goals.
Thornton, 31, feels his success is a direct result of playing beside great teammates.
"I think, first off, you have to play with good players. If you play with good players, you become a better player. Also, your off-ice conditioning and what you do in the summertime really pays off in the wintertime. So I think a little bit of everything helps along the way and we have a good group here in San Jose." --Joe Thornton
"I think, first off, you have to play with good players," he told NHL.com. "If you play with good players, you become a better player. Also, your off-ice conditioning and what you do in the summertime really pays off in the wintertime. So I think a little bit of everything helps along the way and we have a good group here in San Jose."
Thornton was named the 11th captain in Sharks history in October 2010. He still recalls it like it was yesterday.
"It was exciting," he said. "It was a nice challenge. It's an elite fraternity to be a captain in this League. There's only 30 of them, so to be a part of that is pretty special. The whole Sharks organization is a class act and to be the captain of the organization was huge for me."
It's the second time he's served as captain of an NHL team. Thornton wore the 'C' with the Boston Bruins from 2002-05. As such, he knows when to pick his spots.
"You can't bark all day long because you kind of get kind of stale after a while," Thornton said. "But if something's going bad for a while, it's up to the captain or the leadership group to step up and say something when it's the appropriate time."
Sharks coach Todd McLellan can sense Thornton's urgency to win a championship.
"I do sense that and I do believe he has that in him," McLellan said. "Our team will follow his lead. The thing I would like to avoid is needing the jump start. It's a tough job and you have to accept it and it's a lot of weight on your shoulders.
"I think there's different ways of leading. One is through your effort and your actions and that starts with him as an individual and then goes though our leadership group. Secondly, there's the verbal and preparation in the locker room and we all need to take a part in that."
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