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Thornton's big night leads Sharks past Devils @NHLdotcom

The New Jersey Devils had no answer for Joe Thornton and his linemates.

Thornton had his fourth career three-goal game and set up San Jose's other two goals as the Sharks extended the Devils' early-season drought with a 5-2 victory at HP Pavilion on Wednesday night.

Thornton scored twice in the Sharks' three-goal first period and completed the hat trick with 3:05 left in the second.

"I want to score more this season," said Thornton, known much more for being a passer than a shooter. "I just had some luck tonight."

Linemates Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau each scored once and added 3 assists, giving San Jose's big line 13 points for the night -- a big reason the Sharks coasted to their first win of the season in San Jose after losing to Atlanta and Carolina.

"It's about time." Thornton said. "We've got to start winning at home."

After being shut out 4-0 in Calgary on Sunday, the Sharks dominated the game throughout, outshooting New Jersey 39-29.

"They're pretty good players," deadpanned goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who looked sharp in a 27-save performance.

The five-point game was the second of Thornton's career.

David Clarkson had the only goal for the Devils, who fell to 2-7-1 after their third loss in a row -- and they have stops at Anaheim, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Chicago remaining on a brutal six-game trip. Not that playing at home has helped; they are 0-4-1 at the Prudential Center.

"We've got to regroup," coach John MacLean said. "No one is going to feel sorry for us."

MacLean was a member of the 1983-84 Devils, who started 1-9-0 -- the only worse 10-game start in franchise history.

New Jersey's only two victories have been shutouts by Martin Brodeur. But the Sharks are one of three teams he's never blanked -- and Thornton made sure it wouldn't happen this time by beating him with a high shot from the left circle 9:57 into the game. Marleau made it 2-0 at 11:16 by coming out from behind the net and tucking the puck inside the right post. It was the 700th career point for the Sharks' all-time leading scorer.

Thornton got his second goal at 18:59 when Marleau threw the puck in front and the Sharks captain banged it home.

"Their big line was able to win some battles," MacLean said. "We were following the puck at times and that's what happens. It's a game of getting the puck in deep and working and winning battles one on one. When we do that we're fine; when we don't, we get in trouble. We have to be committed to doing it shift after shift."

Each team scored a second-period goal with some help from a lucky bounce.

Clarkson got the Devils on the board at 3:06. Niittymaki went behind the net to play a dump-in -- only to have the puck take an odd bounce and carom in front to Clarkson, who slammed the puck into the vacated net.

But the bounces evened out when Heatley intercepted a clearing try by Brodeur at the left half wall and rimmed it around the boards. The puck took a strange hop and wound up in front on Thornton's stick for an easy power-play goal.

Thornton reverted to his preferred role as passer on the Sharks' fifth goal, firing a perfect feed from the right corner to Heatley, who was racing toward the net. He got position on defenseman Henrik Tallinder and tapped the pass behind a helpless Brodeur.

"With our line, we're so big that when we move a little more, we're more effective," Thornton said. "We all moved a lot better tonight. We jumped on loose pucks. For all three of us, this was nice."

Andy Greene scored a power-play goal with 5:38 remaining -- the Devils' first in 20 power-play chances on the road this season.

MacLean said his team has to take some lessons from the Sharks' big line.

"We can get the puck in deep then go to work on It," he said. "I mean, that's what San Jose did. That's what their big line did all night. They got the pucks down low, then they got the goals off it."

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