Thornton powers Sharks past Maple Leafs, former coach - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Thornton powers Sharks past Maple Leafs, former coach

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By Michael Duca

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SAN JOSE, California (Ticker) -- Joe Thornton made Ron Wilson's

return to San Jose extremely unpleasant.

Thornton recorded a goal and three assists in the first period,

powering the San Jose Sharks to a 5-2 victory over the Toronto

Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

The veteran center's outburst was his first four-point game

since March 3, when he scored two goals and set up two others en

route to a 6-4 triumph over the Montreal Canadiens. Thornton

set a career high in points when he registered five assists

against the Florida Panthers on December 28, 2001 while a member

of the Boston Bruins.

"You've got to get lucky to get that many points in a period,"

Thornton said. "It's very rare. I don't know why I didn't end

up with more. You'd think I would end up with more."

Devin Setoguchi and defensemen Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic

- who converted during a power play - also scored in the first

period. Joe Pavelski added a shorthanded tally in the third as

the Sharks posted their eighth straight win.

The victory gave San Jose 21 victories in its first 25 games,

making it the first team in NHL history to accomplish that feat.

"There's no doubt that's a great thing," Boyle said. "I think

the most impressive thing that I've noticed - you could see it

tonight - it's not like we're jumping for joy. We are pretty

focused on the big picture here.

"Obviously, it's a great start, and when it's all said and done,

we can look back and appreciate it, but this time is just the

start of a season. There's a lot bigger and better things to

come."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan took the milestone in stride.

"Obviously, the record is something we're proud of and we're

pleased with, but it is about the process, about the full

60-minute effort," he said. "We had pretty good efforts for the

most part tonight but not consistent enough to be a team that

can win at the end (of the season)."

Now the Maple Leafs' coach, Wilson did not fare well in his

return to HP Pavilion, where he spent parts of the previous five

campaigns behind the bench for the Sharks before being fired

this past offseason.

"(A win) wouldn't have made my season or anything like that,"

Wilson said. "I've coached 1,100 and whatever games, and it is

one game on the schedule. Sure you'd like to do better than we

did tonight, but what are you going to do?

"If we somehow could have survived maybe the first 10 minutes of

the game, I think we would have found our equilibrium. But it

was over. That was one where you throw the white towel in from

the corner in a boxing match."

Rookie Nikolai Kulemin netted his fifth goal of the season,

Niklas Hagman scored in the final minute of the third period and

added an assist and Mikhail Grabovski set up both tallies for

Toronto, which fell to 2-4-2 in its last eight games.

Thornton wasted no time getting on the scoresheet, logging an

assist on the first goal just 75 seconds into the contest.

He took control of the puck just over the blue line and flipped

it to Setoguchi, who was streaking into the offensive zone.

Setoguchi skated in and backhanded a shot from the left faceoff

circle that beat goaltender Vesa Toskala, who finished with 25

saves.

The 21-year-old Setoguchi, who also notched an assist, has

recorded 12 goals and 29 points in 25 games this season. Last

campaign, his first in the NHL, he registered 11 tallies and 17

points in 44 contests.

"I felt a little jump just to go in there and play the best I

could," Setoguchi said. "We didn't change the game plan, we

just played the way we could. I think there was just a little

more motivation to beat (Wilson) tonight.

"You don't want Ron bragging. Everyone knows Ron Wilson, and he

gets bragging rights if they beat us. We wish Ron and the

coaching staff best of luck and we have a lot of respect for

those guys."

Thornton doubled the lead 5:20 later, when the Sharks got a

sixth attacker onto the ice and maintained control of the puck

with a delayed penalty against the Maple Leafs pending.

A shot sailed over the right shoulder of Toskala and hit the

glass behind the net. The puck bounced back, deflected off the

crossbar and fell into the crease, where Thornton jammed it in

for his seventh goal of the season.

San Jose took a 3-0 lead with 4:01 remaining in the opening

session, when captain Patrick Marleau centered a pass to Boyle,

who wristed a shot from the slot past Toskala for his ninth

tally.

"They are a very skilled team," said Toskala, a former Shark.

"They don't just throw the puck on the net, they move it around

and have a plan for getting it to the net."

With Toronto defenseman Jeff Finger in the penalty box for

holding the stick, San Jose rolled out its power play and scored

42 seconds into the advantage to increase the bulge to 4-0.

Thornton backhanded a pass through the crease to Vlasic, who put

it into an open net with 2:53 remaining in the period.

"I heard Joe say that pass was meant for Patty (Marleau),"

Vlasic said. "But I thought it was for me, even though Joe

couldn't see me. He's so good, you just expect that from him."

Toronto got on the board at 9:10 of the second. Kulemin

retrieved a deflected puck on the right doorstep and wristed it

over netminder Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 29 shots.

San Jose sealed the win four minutes into the third.

With the Maple Leafs on a power play, defenseman Tomas Kaberle

fell at the blue line while attempting to control the puck,

allowing Pavelski and Milan Michalek to skate down on a 2-on-1

rush. Pavelski kept the puck and flipped a wrist shot over

Toskala's right shoulder for his 11th goal and a 5-1 cushion.

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