Thornton helps Sharks clinch playoffs with 5-2 win vs. Kings

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) After three straight losses delayed their playoff clinching, the San Jose Sharks made it back to the postseason with the kind of performance that could carry them far this spring.

Joe Thornton scored a tiebreaking, power-play goal early in the third period and Justin Braun scored twice and saved another with a heady play to help the Sharks beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-2 on Monday night.

''Appropriately, we clinched a playoff spot with a game like that against a team like that,'' coach Peter DeBoer said. ''That's kind of been the story all year that we wanted to prove we belonged in that category of team. We feel we do.''

Joe Pavelski and Melker Karlsson also scored and Martin Jones made 30 saves to send the Sharks back to the postseason after their run of 10 straight trips was snapped last year.

The Sharks had to wait a little longer to celebrate after losing at home to St. Louis, Edmonton and Dallas before coming through with the win against their fiercest rival.

''Getting into the playoffs was a goal that we set from the start,'' forward Logan Couture said. ''To beat those guys to get in was nice.''

Vincent Lecavalier scored twice for the first-place Kings, who had their lead in the Pacific Division cut to one point over second-place Anaheim. The Ducks are four points ahead of the third-place Sharks and have a game in hand over both of their California rivals.

''We wanted the points as much as they do,'' Lecavalier said. ''It doesn't matter how big the game is for them, it was about us getting those two points, but we didn't get them.''

Jonathan Quick made 26 saves, including a brilliant one to rob Couture in the closing moments of the second period. But he had little chance to stop Thornton's go-ahead goal in the third.

Just 11 seconds after Jeff Carter went to the box for hooking Joonas Donskoi, the Sharks scored right off the ensuing faceoff. Brent Burns fired a shot from the faceoff circle and Pavelski whacked at the rebound. The puck came to Thornton at the side of the net and he knocked it in to make it 3-2 with 15:32 remaining.

The Kings nearly tied it midway through the period, but Braun cleared a loose puck that trickled through Jones from the crease just before Anze Kopitar could knock it in to protect the lead.

''I just saw it sitting there,'' Braun said. ''Just try and get there before they do. Thankfully it hit the post and went out instead of in.''

Karlsson provided the insurance when he scored off a feed from Tommy Wingels to make it 4-2 with 3:19 to play and Braun sealed it with an empty-netter.

After falling behind 2-1 when Pavelski scored on a double-deflection, the Kings tied it when Lecavalier scored his second with a quick wrist shot from the circle that beat Jones.

Los Angeles dominated play after that, but the Sharks nearly took the lead when Couture took a pass in the slot with what looked like an empty net to shoot at. But Quick somehow managed to get his stick across the crease and deflect the puck off the cross bar and out to keep the game tied at 2.

''That was a pretty awesome save,'' Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. ''I was just waiting for the buzzer to go off and a ref say goal. Somehow it didn't go in. I don't even know how he saved it. ... That save should have given us momentum going into the next period.''

There was a little extra juice in the building at the start in what could be a playoff preview, with fans chanting ''Beat L.A.!'' before the Kings even hit the ice. But it was Los Angeles that fed off the intensity, getting a power-play goal early from Lecavalier with Braun in the box for delay of game.

But the Sharks picked up their play in the second half of the period and tied the game when Karlsson fed Braun in the slot for a shot that beat Quick.

NOTES: Thornton has points in the last 29 wins for the Sharks, tying Mario Lemieux and Mark Recchi for the fifth longest streak since at least 1989-90. ... Lecavalier recorded his 50th multigoal goal game and first since Dec. 21, 2014, against Winnipeg.

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