San Jose’s 5-1 victory against Minnesota not only kept the Sharks within two points of the eighth playoff position (with two games in hand on Edmonton), it pulled them within two points of seventh spot in the Western Conference (with two games in hand on Vancouver).
However, it was the individual marks that carried the day.
First, Jonathan Cheechoo broke Owen Nolan’s single season 44-goal mark when he scored his 44th and 45th tallies on the season. He is now tied for third in the NHL in goals and trails Jaromir Jagr's 51-goal total. The Sharks have two games in hand on the the Rangers, giving Cheechoo two additional opportunties to catch the NHL goal-scoring leader.
“On the first one, I just kind of flubbed at it and it went in,” said Cheechoo.
Cheechoo perfectly placed a long slapshot past Minnesota netminder Manny Fernandez to take sole possession of the record.
“Joe (Thornton) put a nice pass on my stick and the shot found a nice spot,” said Cheechoo.
Cheechoo is happy to have the record behind him.
“It’s neat to get that many goals,” said Cheechoo. “I didn’t expect to have a season like this, but it definitely is an honor.”
Thornton was proud of Cheechoo’s accomplishment.
“He shoots so well, I can’t say enough good things about him,” said Cheechoo. “I know where he’ll be and know that he can shoot. I am very comfortable with him.”
Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson has enjoyed Cheechoo’s success this year.
“He finds all the right spots on the ice and puts himself in the right place at the right time,” said Wilson. “He’s worked really hard this season and he’s a good person and gets good results. He shows the younger guys like Bernier what it takes.”
Not only did Cheechoo set the Sharks goal scoring mark, the man who has literally helped him reached those heights set his own record. Thornton broke Kelly Kisio’s single season assist mark of 52. On the night, Thornton posted three assists to break the record and set a new mark of 54.
“The season is not over yet and the goal is to get in the playoffs,” said Thornton. “Nothing else matters.”
Thornton is running away with the NHL's assist race and is second only to Jagr in in the point race. The gap is four points, but like Cheechoo, Thornton has two games in hand to try and make up the difference.
Rookie defenseman Matt Carle made his NHL debut against the Wild.
“It was a good first game,” said Carle. “I had a good first period. I got into trouble later, but it was a good overall experience. The guys on the bench were so supportive of me.”
Not only did Carle play in his first career game, he put up his first career goal. With just seconds remaining in the contest, he took a Patrick Rissmiller pass and found the back of the net.
“I kind of through it at the next,” said Carle. “I don’t know how it got in. I’ll have to watch the video.”