SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks are starting to
think they got two superstars in last week's big trade with Boston.
Joe Thornton has been even better than his teammates imagined --
and his arrival also has spurred Patrick Marleau to the best hockey
of his NHL career.
Marleau had his fourth straight three-point game, Mark Smith
scored two goals, and the Sharks remained unbeaten with Thornton in
the lineup, trouncing the weary Florida Panthers 6-2 Thursday
Thornton had two assists, giving him eight points in four games
since coming over from the Bruins. His effect on his new club has
been nothing short of stunning: San Jose, which lost 10 straight
before Thornton's arrival, has scored at least five goals in four
consecutive victories for the first time in franchise history.
But the Sharks are even more impressed by Marleau, who had a
goal and two assists. He has been dominant since Thornton became
his power-play teammate and a deterrent to opponents wishing to
stack their top defenders against the captain, whose 12 points in
four games also are a franchise record.
"We're playing with a lot more confidence, and we're getting
some of the breaks that we weren't getting," said Smith, who had
the first multi-goal game of his career. "But what can you say
about Patty Marleau? He's elevated his game to a whole new level
that I haven't seen before."
Thornton clearly makes everyone in teal look better, and not
just because of his impressive puck control and passing, which set
up Marleau's power-play goal and then cousin Scott Thornton's tally
with 2:01 to play.
Though he's only 26, Joe Thornton's presence brings a confidence
San Jose's youth-dominated lineup lacked this season -- and that
poise showed during a phenomenal four-goal second period.
"(Thornton and Marleau) are moving up the ladder in a hurry,"
Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "They're making a statement as far
as the Canadian Olympic team goes. Patty's playing the best hockey
I've ever seen from him. He has 12 points, and he should have 20.
It's fun to watch."
Alyn McCauley, Scott Thornton and promising rookie Grant
Stevenson also scored as the Sharks got back to .500 (12-12-4).
McCauley has a six-game scoring streak.
"It's just a combination of some new linemates and everybody
playing together," said Marleau, who has thrived with McCauley's
recent addition to his line. "We've got that sense of urgency back
that we were lacking. (The trade) definitely shook things up, but
Joe's linemates are a big part of it, too."
Evgeni Nabokov also had a sharp night after missing the last two
games with a groin injury, making 34 saves for his second straight
victory after his 10-game winless streak.
Stephen Weiss and Jozef Stumpel scored for the Panthers, who
could hardly be blamed for looking sluggish at the tail end of one
of the NHL's most brutal back-to-back road assignments.
Florida lost 4-3 at Dallas on Wednesday night -- and then their
plane sat on the runway for deicing before it could leave Texas.
After a 3½-hour flight, the Panthers got to their hotel in
California around 6 a.m.
"We wanted to have a good start, like 15 shots, and we almost
reached that goal -- then all of a sudden, it's 5-1," captain Olli
Jokinen said. "Especially, Marleau was tremendous. He beat us two
against one. They outplayed us in the second period, and that was
San Jose couldn't score during a two-man advantage for 71
seconds early in the second period, but Smith slipped a rebound
past Jamie McLennan moments after the power plays ended for his
fourth goal. Smith struck again less than 4 minutes later, flipping
a shot over McLennan's shoulder.
After Marleau's power-play goal, Stevenson capped the rally with
his eighth point in eight NHL games.
"It's disappointing, that's all I can say," defenseman Mike
Van Ryn said. "It wasn't a good night for the goalie."
McLennan stopped just 18 shots, but coach Jacques Martin never
pulled him in favor of Roberto Luongo, who was yanked from
The game featured the top four picks in the 1997 NHL draft:
Thornton (No. 1 to Boston), Marleau (No. 2 to San Jose), Jokinen
(No. 3 to Los Angeles) and Luongo (No. 4 to the New York
Islanders). What's more, Sharks D Scott Hannan was the 22nd pick in
that draft. ... Stumpel, a 12th-year pro who once had a 79-point
campaign, got his first goal in 29 games this season. ... Sharks
rookie Josh Langfeld had two assists.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: SAP Center Location: San Jose, California
Referees: Greg Kimmerly, Kelly Sutherland Linesmen: Ryan Galloway, Vaughan Rody
Attendance: 16,007 (91.5% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Alyn McCauley (7)
Assists: Patrick Marleau, Niko Dimitrakos
Stephen Weiss (8)
Assists: Martin Gelinas, Juraj Kolnik
Mark Smith (4)
Assist: Josh Langfeld
Mark Smith (5)
Assists: Josh Langfeld, Rob Davison
Patrick Marleau (12)
(Power Play) Assists: Scott Thornton, Joe Thornton
Grant Stevenson (3)
Assists: Patrick Marleau, Christian Ehrhoff
Jozef Stumpel (1)
Assists: Jay Bouwmeester, Steve Montador