With his four assists on the night, Joe Thornton
reached an NHL milestone, surpassing the 600 assist mark for his career (601). Thornton, who now has 30 points, leads the NHL with 24 assists and improved his point streak to four games (2 goals, 6 assists). The four helpers in one game also ties a Sharks franchise record for most assists in a game. The feat has been accomplished 18 times, the last was by (not surprisingly) Thornton this season on Oct. 8 versus Columbus. It was Thornton’s ninth career four-plus assist night.
Simply put, Thornton is the NHL’s top setup man and when he’s combined with Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau
, they easily could be the NHL’s most deadly trio. Heatley now has 17 goals on the season to lead the NHL while Marleau has 14 to his credit. It marked Heatley’s ninth career hat trick and second with San Jose.
“When you throw Patty in there, it’s a pretty dynamic line,” said Thornton of the group who played together for an entire game for the first time all season. “For me to pass to those two, it’s a passer’s dream.”
“They were really clicking,” said McLellan. “I’m obviously happy for them. They made a real impact on the game. They also got our team energized a little bit. They were there to play right off the bat. It’s nice to see them rewarded offensively for it.”
Three of Thornton’s helpers came on Heatley’s three goals and two of the passes that were made were done to the disbelief of everyone in the HP Pavilion. Both times it appeared as if Thornton has missed his window for the connection.
“When I gave it to him (for the first one), he held it and I waited and waited,” said Heatley. “As the guy receiving the past, you’ve got to trust he will get it there. With Joe, you know he will find a lane.”
The second goal was a carbon copy as Heatley planted in front of the crease and it appeared Thornton had no seem for the pass. He continued to wait until the right moment.
“Both times he stopped in the exact same spot and he stayed,” said Thornton of Heatley.
“Patty was saying before the pass that 17,562 people were yelling for him to shoot,” said Manny Malhotra. “He is so special. I don’t know too many people who could make that.”
“Joe made an amazing play,” said Marc-Edouard Vlasic
. “Joe made the pass when any other player would have shot.”
Even McLellan was thinking shoot.
“Both times,” said McLellan. “I joked that he knew what we were all thinking and he said, ‘I know.’”
For Heatley, he enjoyed the chemistry on the night, especially from the man who delivered the hat trick helpers.
“The puck was following us as a group,” said Heatley. “Joe is a great player.
Marleau and Thornton were happy to help Thornton reach the 600 number.
“600 is a lot,” said Heatley. “He is one of the best, if not the best passer in the game. It’s fun getting to play with him.”
Heatley felt there could have been more goals for the line.
“In the first period, we could have had two or three,” said Heatley.
TRICKLING INPatrick Marleau
scored a big go-ahead goal with seconds remaining in the second period. Ray Emery got most of the puck, but couldn’t squeeze it between his pads and the post. It slowly rolled down the back of his pad and dropped over the line.
“I’ve seen the replay,” said Marleau. “I knew he was struggling to find it and then the crowd roared.”
Malhotra’s goal was not drawn up on the board in the fashion it occurred, but it happened because of the game plan. On the play, his slapper from the point went off two Flyers before crossing the line.
“That’s from back in my pinball days,” said Malhotra. “They are great at blocking shot and we wanted to get some through.”
Of Malhotra’s four goals this year, three have come against the Flyers.
Of all people, Marc-Edouard Vlasic
was in a fight Friday night, the first of his NHL career.
“It just happened,” said Vlasic. “I’m not looking for it. It just happened.”
The players were almost as jacked for that moment as they were for the hat trick.
“Jumbo was pretty pumped I fought,” said Vlasic. “Even Shelley was surprised.”
The Flyers have only surrendered four or more goals five times this year and Sharks have now done it twice. It was the first time the Flyers had surrendered six goals this year, but the third time San Jose had accomplished the mark.
FLYERS HEAD COACH, JOHN STEVENS
“They played a heck of a hockey game. They beat us every way you can imagine, five-on-five, short-handed and on the power-play. It’s pretty clear cut the guys you have got to try to shut down. They dominated the game and that was the end of it.”
“Even in the second period it felt like we were back in the game. The special teams were a huge factor tonight.”
The Sharks flew right after the game for Saturday’s 7 p.m. game in Anaheim that will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.