<
>

Thornton stars in home debut for Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- If Joe Thornton keeps this up, he will
quickly shed any lingering disappointment about being traded.

He certainly made a memorable first splash in the Shark Tank.

Thornton assisted on his new team's first goal, then scored
later in the opening period to lead the San Jose Sharks to their
third straight victory in his home debut, 5-3 over the Atlanta
Thrashers on Tuesday night.

Thornton had a pair of assists in each of his first two games
with the Sharks and already has six points for rejuvenated San Jose
since being acquired last Wednesday from Boston in a blockbuster
deal that sent Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau to the
Bruins.

"We're 3-0 and scored 15 goals since we picked up Thornton,"
Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "It's kind of nice the things you
were hoping would happen with the trade have."

Thornton passed to Jonathan Cheechoo 2:56 into the game for a
power-play goal and Cheechoo's 10th score of the season. Then Scott
Thornton -- Joe's cousin -- hit Joe Thornton for a goal with a
two-man advantage with 6:40 left in the first period.

The crowd went wild after Scott Thornton pulled goaltender
Michael Garnett to his right side and quickly passed to Joe
Thornton, who tapped the puck in from close range.

"Scotty just kind of slipped it over to me and there was an
open net," Joe Thornton said. "It's nice to find the back of the
net in the first home game. It's nice how the fans welcomed me and
the city. That gave me a boost to start the game."

After Cheechoo's opening goal, the Sharks found the net again 70
seconds later on Rob Davison's first goal of the year. Davison took
a pass from Alyn McCauley, who extended his point streak to five
games. McCauley also assisted on Tom Preissing's second-period
score.

Joe Thornton received a roaring ovation when the starting
lineups were announced -- and after this performance, everything
points to the soft-spoken center being a huge hit in his new home.
He is quickly providing a glimpse of what could be a promising run
with him leading San Jose's offense. The 26-year-old former No. 1
draft pick is known for his superior vision on the ice.

He made a quick curtain call after being announced as player of
the game, much to the joy of the 15,812 fans.

"He's a playmaker," Wilson said before the game. "He makes
others around him better."

The Sharks had lost five straight at home, but Thornton helped
San Jose to its first victory on their own ice since a 3-2 overtime
win over Nashville on Nov. 2.

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson first saw Joe Thornton during
the world juniors tournament in 1997, when Wilson was on Canada's
player selection committee.

"It was a lasting impression," Wilson said between the first
and second periods Tuesday. "We're trying to put all the pieces
together to win a Stanley Cup. ... The thing that excites me is to
get a guy who has accomplished what he's accomplished, I think his
best hockey is ahead of him. When this came available, it's rare
you get a guy who's in his prime. To be a championship team, you
have to be dominant down the middle."

Nils Ekman also scored for the Sharks, faking out Garnett and
shooting around him into the corner of the net for his fourth goal.

Brad Larsen scored his second of the season for Atlanta 5:37 in
on an assist from J.P. Vigier, and Marian Hossa scored twice for
the Thrashers, including a short-handed goal early in the second
period in the only meeting of the season between the clubs.

Atlanta, playing on back-to-back nights after losing Monday at
Phoenix, lost its fifth straight and has been outscored 20-9 during
the skid.

"That 5-on-3 in the first, that put us in the hole
immediately," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "We didn't have
enough going for us in the third and we couldn't cash in on any
chances all night. We ran into discipline problems in the first,
and that just took our momentum away."

The Thrashers have beaten the Sharks just once in nine meetings,
in overtime during the 2002-03 season.

Coincidentally, the last time the Sharks scored three goals at
home in the first period was Jan. 10, 2004, against Atlanta.

Game notes
Joe Thornton, who is temporarily staying with his cousin
and teammate, won't play against the Western Conference until Dec.
18 at Anaheim. The Sharks are in a stretch of four straight home
games with Florida, Carolina and Washington up next. That's fine
with the team's newest player. "It's nice," Joe Thornton said of
California. "It's different waking up and seeing sunshine." ...
Sharks G Evgeni Nabokov, who didn't win a home game all last month,
was scratched because of a sore groin. ... Patrick Marleau has nine
points in his last three games for San Jose -- three straight
three-point games. That matches a franchise record for most points
in a three-game stretch, set by Kelly Kisio in December 1992.