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Thornton's frustrations boil over in Game 2 loss

by Dave Lozo
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Joe Thornton played like a man possessed on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, he played mostly like a man possessed by someone with anger- management issues who enjoyed being on the ice for some of the opposition's even-strength goals.

For the second game in a row, Thornton finished minus-2 as the Sharks suffered a 4-2 loss to the Blackhawks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, leaving San Jose in a gigantic 0-2 hole with the series shifting to Chicago for Game 3 on Friday. Thornton is now minus-10 this postseason -- a number that would have him in the final group heading into the third round of the Masters.

The Sharks' center picked up a beauty of an assist on Patrick Marleau's second-period power-play goal and was dangerous offensively, but Thornton's Game 2 performance will likely be remembered for his edge and physical play, which went over the line at times.

Thornton caught Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook with his head down midway through the second period and made him pay with a clean, devastating hit. But after Troy Brouwer put the Blackhawks ahead 4-1 at 6:18 of the third period, Thornton might as well have swapped the Sharks' teal for the Incredible Hulk's green.

Before the puck was dropped for an offensive-zone faceoff, Thornton slashed Hawks' center Dave Bolland across his right wrist, leaving the Sharks shorthanded and Bolland writhing in pain. Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Thornton wasn't trying to intentionally hurt Bolland but was instead trying to shoot the puck on goaltender Antti Niemi off the draw.

Bolland offered a different explanation, saying, "I think he got mixed up."

Frustration boiled over in the final 18 seconds. Thornton managed to avoid a penalty out of the late-game scrum after he pulled down both Bolland and Madden at the same time.

Despite the late-game slash and garbage time melee, McLellan was happy with Thornton's overall game.

"If I look at Joe's game, I thought Joe played a pretty solid game," he said. "He was skating. He was big. He was strong."

Thornton sat down at his locker for a quick interview session with the media following the game:

Q: What went wrong tonight?

Thornton: I didn't think we gave them too much, to be honest with you. I thought we played good defensive hockey. I don't know how many chances they got. We were just not capitalizing on our chances. They are with theirs. We aren't with ours.

Q: What's Niemi doing so well?

Thornton: I think when you get to this point, everyone's going to have a good goalie. I don't think we underestimated him at all. He's playing good, but I don't think we're getting enough second chances that we should be getting.

: You seem to be having a lot of heated battles with Dave Bolland. What's that mean for you?

Thornton: I think coach is actually spreading it out. I'm not really against him all the time. But yeah, it's a battle all night.

Q: What needs to change in Game 3?

Thornton: I think we outshot them tonight. Did we? Yeah, we did. We just have to capitalize when we get our chances, that's all.

Q: Do you need to get back to playing more of a north-south style and not get caught up in so much of the physical stuff?

Thornton: Well, yeah. I don't think we're playing bad. We're outshooting them, I think we're out-chancing them -- we're just not capitalizing. We feel like that when we're rugged, we play a lot better and we play with a little bit more of an edge. We just got to get back to that and get back to that and start bumping a little bit more.

Q: How big of a mountain do the Sharks need to climb to get back in this series?

: It's huge. It's going to be tough. But everybody in here is prepared for this, and we got to go into Chicago and play some good hockey and get a couple wins now.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL

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