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Thornton still golden
Jumbo Joe carries the load in 3-2 win
11/30/07 - by Mike Lee

On the 2-year anniversary of the Joe Thornton acquisition, Thornton celebrated by scoring a pair of goals and tacking on an assist in a 3-2 win over the visiting Colorado Avalanche. The biggest personnel move in Sharks history continues to pay dividends, and that wasn't more evident than on Friday night, where Thornton helped the Sharks break a 3-game losing streak at home.

"It feels like I've been here 20 years, you know, I'm so comfortable here," said Thornton after the game. "This is home for me and this is where I want to be for the rest of my career. It's been a nice two years for me, and many more to come."

Joe Thornton gave the Sharks the early 1-0 lead on a power play goal just 1:52 into the game after Jaroslav Hlinka was sent off for holding less than a minute into the contest. Milan Michalek sent a diagonal pass from the left wing boards to Thornton, who was parked outside the right post. Thornton had Avalanche goaltender Peter Budaj dead to rights, easily burying the point blank shot through the 5-hole.

Fresh off his one-game benching, defenseman Kyle McLaren put the Sharks into a bit of a hole by tripping Paul Stastney 56 seconds after Jeremy Roenick was sent off for high-sticking former Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan. The Sharks killed off the ensuing 5-on-3 with the league's best penalty kill.

After the Sharks missed converting on a power play later in the period, the hitting picked up, energizing the sellout HP Pavilion crowd.

Stastney just had a chance to convert a back breaker right at the end of the 1st period, but he lost control of the puck right in front of the Sharks net

"Tonight's a game we wanted to come out strong, we were very focused, much like the last game that we played," said defenseman Craig Rivet. "We seemed to play pretty close to 60 minutes of hockey tonight. We didn't let up. We had some great play from all our players and that's kind of what we need to win right now."

Thornton would extend the Sharks lead to 2-0 at the 4:42 mark of the 2nd period on nis second power play goal of the game. Joe Sakic gave the Sharks a power play after he retaliated for a hit by Devin Setoguchi, by slashing the Sharks rookie. Thornton scored with a shot from the bottom of the right circle that got past Budaj, tucking inside the far post.

The hitting would settle down, but the goals began to heat up with 5 minutes remaining in the period.

San Jose had a chance to separate themselves on another power play, but a gaff by Rivet turned disastrous. Rivet failed to hold a puck in along the ring wing boards, then let Stastney slip past him for an Avalanche break. Stastney would race up the left wing, then hit Milan Hejduk with a cross ice pass, who tapped it past Evgeni Nabokov to cut the sharks lead to 2-1.

The Sharks would answer less than 2 minutes later when a Thornton pass pin-balled off the skates of Mike Grier and Budaj. Thornton was deep in the left corner, when he fired the puck into the slot at Grier was cutting toward the goal. The goal was upheld after a review confirmed that Grier hadn't kicked the puck into the net.

"It was a good bounce for us," said Mike Grier. "The coaches have been talking about getting pucks to the net and guys going to the net. I saw Jumbo with it, so I just tried to head to the net and got a good bounce."

With the lead back at 2 goals, the Sharks let the Avalanche back into the game with more mistakes. Christian Ehrhoff was sent to the penalty box for interference with 37 seconds left in the period, then an Andrew Brunette pass ended up in the Sharks goal after the puck kicked off McLaren's left skate. The Colorado power play took a mere 8 seconds to convert Ehrhoff's penalty into points, shifting the game's momentum.

Ehrhoff would earn another trip to the box with just under 5 minutes to play in regulation, putting the Avalanche back on the power play, but Brett Clark would trip Thornton 42 seconds later to even things up.

Wojtek Wolski put a backhander on net from point blank range during the 4-on-4, but Nabokov snuffed out the scoring chance by sliding save to his left.

Colorado head coach Joel Quenville pulled Budaj with a minute to play, but the Avalanche could only muster a lone shot on goal.

"We started off strong. We were hitting," added Thornton. "When things aren't going your way, I think if you start hitting somebody, at least you're into the game and at least the other team know you're here. I thought we played pretty good for the whole 60 minutes tonight. We stuck with it and Nabby made the big saves when we needed him. It was a big win, knowing we have to go on the road for the next three games. Game Notes:

With the two assists, Stastney has 1 goal and 6 assists against the Sharks in 2 games this season against San Jose. Curtis Brown, Alexei Semanov and Rob Davison were all healthy scratches for San Jose. The Sharks also assigned Tomas Plihal to Worcester on Friday. Plihal had bee on the injured reserve all season, while nursing a bum shoulder.

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1 2 3 T
COL 0 2 0 2
SJ 1 2 0 3
1st period - 1. SJ, Thornton 10 (Michalek), 1:52, (pp).
2nd period - 2, SJ, Thornton 11 (Michalek, Ozolinsh), 4:42, (pp). 3, COL, Hejduk 8 (Stastney, Hannan), 16:25, (sh). 4, SJ, Grier 3 (Thornton, McLaren), 18:02. 5, COL, Brunette 4 (Stastney, Sakic), 19:31, (pp).
3rd period - None.
1st period - Hlinka, COL (holding), 0:46; Roenick, SJ (high sticking), 3:17; McLaren, SJ (tripping), 4:13; Stastney, COL (tripping), 7:36.
2nd period - Sakic, COL (slashing), 4:16; Rissmiller, SJ (closing hand on puck), 4:50; Finger, COL (hooking), 15:39; Ehrhoff, SJ (interference), 19:23.
3rd period - Wolski, COL (roughing), 8:32; Rissmiller, SJ (roughing), 8:32.
Shots Saves
COL - Budaj 29 26
SJ - Nabokov 20 18
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
COL 7 7 6 20
SJ 10 13 6 29
Power Play Conversion
COL 1 of 5
SJ 2 of 5
3 Stars of the Game
Joe Thornton
Peter Budajx
Milan Michalek
Referees: Brad Meier, Dan O'Rourke. Linesmen: Darren Gibbs, Mark Wheler.

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