CHICAGO (AP) -- Joe Thornton finds his teammates when they have
the best angle to shoot and gives them the puck at the split second
He's been doing it since joining the San Jose Sharks nearly four
months ago. It's a reason they're back in the Western Conference
Thornton got the puck to Tom Preissing, who scored the winner
1:24 into overtime Sunday night with a slapper from the high slot
as the Sharks beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4.
"When Joe got the puck I was screaming at him pretty loud and
obviously Joe Thornton knows how to find guys," Preissing said.
"He's fun to play with and watch out there. He knows where you
want the puck and he gets it there. Basically I did the easy part.
He did all the work."
Thornton finished the night with three assists, giving him six
in a span of 24 hours. He also had three Saturday night against
Minnesota while eclipsing the franchise record of 52 for a season.
Since joining the Sharks in a Nov. 30 trade from Boston, he has 57
"He's always been good. He's definitely their leader," Chicago
coach Trent Yawney said. "He's a terrific player no matter who he
Kyle Calder's power-play goal with 1:12 left in regulation tied
it for Chicago at 4. The Blackhawks had a 6-on-4 skating advantage
after pulling goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, and Calder tipped in a
shot past Vesa Toskala.
But Chicago's Jim Vandermeer was called for holding with 26
seconds left in regulation, giving the Sharks a 4-on-3 power play
to start the extra period and they made it work. Another penalty
was about to be called on the Hawks in overtime when Preissing
"I saw there was a penalty and Tom was wide open. He made a
good shot to beat Khabibulin," Thornton said.
But the key penalty was the one on Vandermeer with the clock
winding down in regulation.
"We talk about decisions. He made a bad decision at the blue
line to put himself in that position," Yawney said.
San Jose had taken a 4-3 lead when Mark Smith collected a
rebound of his own miss, skated behind the net and scored on a
wraparound past Khabibulin at 7:33 of the third period.
The Sharks, who have 82 points have won eight of 11. The
Blackhawks have lost five straight. San Jose is 28-12-6 with
"The guys are just shooting the puck real well right now,"
Thornton said. "They're making me look better than I am."
Radim Vrbata's second goal of the game gave the Blackhawks a 3-2
lead in the second, but the Sharks tied it when Nils Ekman took a
nice pass from Thornton to score from right in front with just
under 2 minutes left in the period.
The Blackhawks got a rare power-play goal in the first from
Mikael Holmqvist, who redirected Mark Bell's slap shot from just
inside the blue line for a 2-1 lead.
But just 2:17 later, San Jose's Steve Bernier pushed a rebound
past Khabibulin for a 1-1 tie.
The Sharks, who beat Minnesota 5-1 on Saturday night and were
playing the fourth game of a five-game, weeklong road trip, were
anything but weary early. They peppered Khabibulin with 16
first-period shots. Chicago had just six.
Pat Rissmiller scored on a shot from the right circle just 3
minutes into the game when the puck got by Khabibulin after he was
screened by teammate Curtis Brown. Chicago responded quickly, tying
the game 37 seconds later when Vrbata took a nice crossing pass
from Mark Cullen for the score.
Chicago entered the game with the NHL's worst power play,
converting just 12 percent of its chances. ... Jose is 25-6-2 when
scoring first. ... The 20,500-seat United Center was less than half
full. Attendance was announced at 10,121. ... Vrbata also had two
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: United Center Location: Chicago, Illinois
Referees: Blaine Angus, Bill McCreary Linesmen: Brad Kovachik, Jean Morin
Attendance: 10,121 (51.3% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Patrick Rissmiller (2)
Assists: Marcel Goc, Mark Smith
Radim Vrbata (10)
Assists: Mark Cullen, Brent Seabrook
Mikael Holmqvist (10)
(Power Play) Assists: Mark Bell, Radim Vrbata
Steve Bernier (9)
Assists: Jonathan Cheechoo, Joe Thornton
Radim Vrbata (11)
Assists: Mark Cullen, James Wisniewski
Nils Ekman (17)
Assists: Joe Thornton, Tom Preissing
Mark Smith (9)
Assists: Ville Nieminen, Rob Davison
Kyle Calder (19)
(Power Play) Assists: Radim Vrbata, Mark Bell
Tom Preissing (11)
(Power Play) Assists: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau