San Jose jumped on the Thrashers early Tuesday night and never looked back in route to a 5-3 victory.
“We knew they played last night, so we wanted to get out to a good start,” said Joe Thornton
after his first home game at HP Pavilion. “We played another solid 60 minutes tonight.”
The victory ran the Sharks win streak to three as they are beginning to make up ground on the Pacific Division leaders.
“We’ve got to keep the focus on winning games,” said Captain Patrick Marleau
. “We have this homestand, and we have to get back to the playoffs. It’s one thing to be at home, but we have to win the games. We’ve got everyone working hard and everyone’s chipping in.”
San Jose is getting contributions from everywhere, but there is no question Thornton has made his presence felt.
“It helps,” said Marleau. “It shook things up. We have different people contributing now. That’s not what we had in the 10-game losing streak. Rob Davison got a goal tonight. Nils Ekman chipped in pretty good one. That’s what happens when everyone starts playing and everything gets spread out.”
Thornton wasted no time in becoming a crowd favorite as he notched a goal in his first game before the home fans.
“Scotty (Scott Thornton) slipped it over to me and it was just an open net, and it was nice to find the back of the net in my first home game,” said Thornton.
Thornton scored two points for the third consecutive game, but was more concerned with the Sharks third consecutive victory.
“It is always nice to get the two points, especially at home,” said Thornton.
Thornton set up the Sharks first goal and, once again, Jonathan Cheechoo was the beneficiary.
“He has a great release, and before the puck gets over there it looks like it’s off his stick and the goalie doesn’t get a chance to move,” said Thornton. “He just has a fantastic release.”
Besides Thornton, Doug Murray also played his first game at HP Pavilion, and the rookie is undefeated as an NHLer as the Sharks have gone 3-0.
“I definitely got in there and played my role,” said Murray. “I got a couple of good chances to hit a few guys tonight. I was a little overanxious in the beginning, running around a little too much, but I settled down and played solid defensively as well.”
Murray laid a big hit on Ilya Kovalchuk in the first period and later one on Ronald Petrovicky that left the Atlanta forward down on the ice for a few minutes.
“I know what’s coming,” said Murray. “He (Kovalchuk) is their top gunner. He’s obviously one of the targets out there, and I will try to hit anyone out there. But especially a guy like that. If you get a chance, you want to take it.”
Murray is definitely enjoying his brief, yet promising, NHL career.
“It’s big,” said Murray. “Hopefully, we can rattle off seven more, and we’ll forget about those 10 losses we had.”
Rob Davison scored his first of the season to give San Jose an early 2-0 lead.
“The most important thing is that we won, but it’s always nice when you score,” said Davison. “Obviously my job isn’t really to score goals or anything like that, but it always makes you feel good. You can contribute to the win.
“I just try to get the puck to the net and let the forwards bang in the rebound, especially now we’re playing pretty well and guys are going to the net and getting the job done in there – banging in rebounds.”
The faceoff circles have not been kind to San Jose in every contest this year, but like everything else during the three-game streak, Team Teal performed admirably Tuesday, taking 55 percent of their draws.
“It is one of the only times in hockey where you can actually run a set play is off the draw – whether it’s the neutral zone or offensive zone. When you get quality players that can take draws, it helps.”
POWER PLAY CLICKING
San Jose had the power play working prior to the Thornton acquisition, but now it is in full gear, accounting for two tallies on Tuesday night.
“The week before Joe– maybe ten days before – our power play was starting to click,” said Ron Wilson. “Basically since we put Patty back at the point. Obviously, Joe’s playmaking ability – like the pass he made to Cheechoo on the rush – is a phenomenal pass. On our five-on-three’s, we’re not wasting any time right now. We struggled a little earlier, but Joe, he finds the right people and he makes the right pass. His cousin did a great job of digging the puck out and [Joe] had a pretty easy goal.”
San Jose played only their second home game since November 19.
“We’ve just played six out of seven [on the road],” said Wilson. "It seems like we’ve been on the road all year. The game got a little sloppy in the second half, but we did what we had to do considering we’ve been away from home for so long. A lot of times you suffer a letdown.”
5 FOR FIGHT (OR FOR EVERY GAME)
During the current three-game winning streak, the Sharks have scored exactly five goals in each contest.
“We’re 3-0 and we’ve scored 15 goals since we’ve picked up [Joe] Thornton,” said Wilson. “Patty Marleau has assisted on nine of the 15 goals. Joe has been in on six of them. It’s kind of nice. The things that you were hoping would happen with the trade have. That’s a good thing. We’re getting key saves when we need them, too, which is a healthy sign.”
Still the Sharks will have to avoid the trap of playing too fancy and forgetting about the defensive side of the ice.
“We’ll score goals,” said Wilson. “The concern now is to make sure that we don’t suffer any defensive breakdowns that [will get us] into a cookie parade where we’re just looking to score and forget about the other end of the ice.”
5 FOR ALYN
Recently Alyn McCauley has been on an offensive tear. The 2004 Selke finalist for the NHL’s best defensive forward is now riding a five-game point streak.
“Alyn seems to have regained his confidence,” said Wilson. “Good things are happening. He had a couple of assists, and he could have scored two. With playing on the wing, it takes away some of the defensive responsibilities in his own end and he’s taking advantage of the opportunity.”