The Sharks were in need of a big team victory and a great individual effort by Captain Joe Thornton
provided it in a 5-2 win against New Jersey.
“It was a real impressive performance when it comes to leadership,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said of his top line after the game.
Thornton recorded his first Sharks hat trick at HP Pavilion and now has four in his career. He finished the evening with a five points and now has 12 points in his last eight games.
“I haven’t had one in a while and it was nice,” Thornton said about his hat trick. “We’ve been working on our five-on-five play. We felt like we’d been standing still a little too much and we wanted to get moving. With our line, we are so big, when we move a little more we are more effective and I think you saw that tonight.”Patrick Marleau
and Dany Heatley normally do the bulk of the finishing, but tonight they were happy to do a little extra passing.
“It was nice to see Joe get three,” Heatley said. “I was pretty content dishing. It was pretty fun. We were working it well in the corner with a lot of movement in their end. When we’re moving it and supporting each other, we can get a lot done.”
The hat trick was nice, but the fact that Thornton’s trademark assists were also on tap made the night especially pleasing.
“We were all going and for all three of us to score it’s nice,” Thornton said about Marleau and Heatley also finding the back of the net.
Even the Sharks players are impressed when they see the big three start clicking as they did against the Devils.
“That line, to show up like, they are our leaders,” Antero Niittymaki said. “Jumbo had a hat trick and that is a pretty good way to lead.”
Antero Niittymaki continued his strong play and is now 3-0-1 on the season. He allowed just one goal off a crazy bounce (more on that later) and a late power play goal. He made the key saves when necessary and was in control all night. He said it was a strong team effort that made the night relatively easy.
“It was a pretty solid game. We didn’t give them a whole lot,” Niittymaki said. “We played a really good game and hopefully we can keep going. They are blocking the puck out so I can see the puck more. That is all I can ask for them.”
His coach enjoyed the performance as much as the goal scoring effort.
“I thought Niitty was very solid,” McLellan said. “He made some saves when he had too, especially on the penalty kill situations. You can sense a comfort with him in there and a confidence.”
McLellan noted it may have been the top netminding performance of the young year for San Jose.
Each team scored a goal off a fortuitous bounce and each time a puck seemed to be heading along the boards behind the net. As Niittymaki and Martin Brodeur moved back to play the pucks, they struck something and bounced out for easy tallies.
“It was the easiest one I’ll see all year,” Thornton said of his third goal. “I’ll take it. That happened at the other end and that’s the hockey gods. It was payback.”
After being victimized by the first bad bounce, Niittymaki was glad to see the play go the other way.
“It was nice to see, it was fair I think,” Niittymaki said.
WELCOME BACKJoe Pavelski
had been with his wife and new baby until it came time for the game, but he did rejoin his teammates in time for the win.
“There was a lot of adrenaline playing and not much sleep lately, but it’s been worth it,” Pavelski said.
With a goal and two assists, Patrick Marleau
scored the 700th, 701st, and 702nd points of his career (323-379=702).
NEW JERSEY DEVILS COACH JOHN MACLEAN
“Again, we started out good. We were getting the puck deep, then four turnovers and they get the first goal off it. It can be done. We can get the puck in deep then go to work on it. I mean, that’s what San Jose did. That’s what their big line did all night. They got the pucks down low then they got the goals off it.”
“Their big line was able to win some battles. We were following the puck at times and that’s what happens. It’s a game of getting the puck in deep and working and winning battles one-on-one. When we do that we’re fine, when we don’t we get in trouble. We have to be committed to doing it shift after shift.”
San Jose will host Anaheim Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and the game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.