Fortunately for the Sharks, there was a major Heatley sighting, some vintage Thornton and plenty of energized play from Torrey Mitchell
, who filled in on the first line.
Fifty-six seconds after Joe Pavelski
put the Sharks up 1-0 at 9:05 of the first period, Thornton and Heatley teamed up to make it 2-0.
Thornton, planted in front of the Red Wings net, gave defenseman Andreas Lilja a well-time bump and came up with the puck. He circled behind the goal left to right then sent a perfect pass to Heatley, streaking toward the crease.
Heatley took the pass and slammed it home, putting the Sharks ahead by two goals. For Heatley, it was his first goal of these playoffs and first-ever goal against the Red Wings in his 10th career game against Detroit.
“He knows where I’m going, and I know where he’s looking,” Heatley said of Thornton. “I thought I kind of came right down Broadway. He waited and waited and fed a nice pass to me in the slot.”
Thornton’s take on the play?
“I kind of just went around the net and the puck happened to be there,” he said. “Just Dany with his big body, I just saw him out of the corner of my eye and just put it on him. He’s not going to miss those too often. It was a good goal.”
When the Sharks acquired Heatley in an offseason blockbuster trade, they imagined magical moments like this, with Thornton finding him and Heatley delivering.
And that injury that forced Heatley to miss Game 3 against Colorado and slowed him for the remainder of the series? Well, based on his 100 mph, heat-seeking missile rush to the net, it appears to be history.
The Sharks break after clinching their first-round series against Colorado definitely helped.
“He is healthy,” Thornton said of Heatley. “That time off really did him good, getting rid of that injury. He had a lot of pep tonight.”
“A couple days were real big,” Heatley said. “A couple good practices. I felt great tonight.”
Heatley added an assist when Pavelski put the Sharks ahead 4-2 just 50 seconds into the third period with a power-play goal.
From the moment the puck dropped Thursday night, Thornton starting making contact with assorted Red Wings. That was his game plan after a long break.
“Usually if you get a couple bumps in early, it gets you into the game, and that’s what I wanted to do to kind of get myself into the game because we’ve had such a long layoff,” Thornton said.
“Obviously Pavs played real well for us again,” Heatley said, “but I thought Jumbo was a real force. Made a great play on that goal. He was really physical on the forecheck and played a great game tonight.”
Late in the first period, Thornton didn’t make contact with a Red Wing, but he gave goalie Jimmy Howard a classic snow shower, coming to a stop quick stop in front of the net. Let’s just say Howard and Wings weren’t happy.
“I thought the puck was coming loose,” Thornton said. “They always say stop in front of the net, so that’s what I did.”
Thornton, Heatley and Marleau combined for a lone goal against Colorado, with Marleau scoring late in the series-clincher. They had hoped to get off to a fast start together in Game 1 of the second round, but Marleau will have wait until Game 2 on Sunday to join the fun.
On Thursday, the Sharks adjusted to life without Marleau, their all-time playoff leader in goals and points and a 44-goal scorer during the regular-season.
“He’s obviously a big part of our team, a big part of our offense,” Mitchell said. “I think everybody did a pretty good job of stepping up today. When a guy like that is out of the lineup everybody’s got to pick it up.”
Mitchell didn’t score a point, but he did his part.
“My role is to just use my speed and create a little havoc, and so that was what I was trying to do tonight,” Mitchell said.
“Torrey’s such a great skater, he can play with anybody,” Thornton said. “Whatever line coach puts him on, he always seems to do really, really well. Tonight was no different.”