Thornton netted his first goal since the 2003-'04 season while Teemu Selanne added his team-high 16th goal and an assist in the third period as league-leading Anaheim beat the Washington Capitals 6-1 on Friday night for its seventh victory in eight games.
Thornton was brought up from Portland of the AHL for the second time this season.
"It's been like that the last few years . . . up and down, up and down. You never get sick of getting called up," said Thornton, who also had an assist.
"Yesterday after practice, (Portland coach) Kevin Dineen called me and said, 'You've got a flight in two hours. Give your wife a kiss goodbye and get to the airport as soon as possible.' "
Todd Marchant had a goal and two assists, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 26 saves to help stop Washington's four-game winning streak. Giguere's bid for a second consecutive shutout ended with Alexander Semin's goal 5:06 into the third period, off an up-against-the-boards, through-the-legs, no-look pass from Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin's only NHL hat-trick came against Anaheim last season, but Giguere and his defence held the reigning rookie of the year in check this time, limiting him to one shot each in the first and third. He did come up with that one brilliant pass, though, while pinned in a corner.
"He was the difference in the game the last time we played them, and that was last year. It's a different game, a different set of circumstances," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "He's still a very dynamic player.
"He plays with a lot of passion and he plays in all areas, and he's very, very dangerous."
Not quite the scouting report likely to be given on Thornton, who entered the day with two career NHL goals. But it was an eventful evening for the right wing: He served a five-minute penalty for fighting in the first period, and assisted on Dustin Penner's goal in the second that made it 3-0.
"We didn't play the way we wanted to," Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig said. "We wanted to come out hard in the first period and establish ourselves.
"We basically gave them the first three goals."
Selanne, Andy McDonald and Corey Perry all scored in the final period for Anaheim (22-3-6, 51 points), which is off to the best start in franchise history.
Washington averaged 5 1/2 goals during its previous four games, but Anaheim dominated the flow of play for long stretches. One example: The visitors outshot the Capitals 8-0 over the first six minutes of the second period.
"The difference tonight was the execution on their part," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. "They're just a smart team that controlled the puck."
During the game's opening minute, Marchant slid the puck over to Thornton, who moved in alone in front of the net and sent a backhander into the upper right corner.
"He made an impression, and that's what you ask of a young player - to step into your lineup straight from the American Hockey League," Carlyle said.
That marked the first time Washington had trailed in any game since a Nov. 25 loss to the Islanders. Since then, the Capitals had reeled off their winning streak, during which they outscored opponents 22-11 - including 9-1 in the first period.
But the Ducks doubled their lead later in that period on a short-handed score. Thinking Semin would come over to collect a clearing pass, Kolzig tapped the puck softly from behind his net. That allowed Marchant to gather the puck and deposit it for his eighth goal.
To that point, less than 15 minutes into the game, Anaheim had taken four shots - and two had gone in.
"I know we haven't played a perfect 60 minutes yet, and that's our goal," said Penner, who scored in the second period. "Every night, we're trying to improve on our last game."
Notes: The Capitals haven't had a five-game winning streak since March 3-11, 2001. ... Anaheim opened a five-game road trip and a stretch in which it plays 10 of 12 away from home.