Final OT

Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series tied 2-2

Game 1: Wednesday, November 16th
Game 2: Thursday, November 24th
Game 3: Wednesday, April 12th
Game 4: Thursday, April 13th

Sharks 5

(42-26-11, 95 pts)

Canucks 4

(41-31-8, 90 pts)

10:00 PM ET, April 12, 2006

Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

1 2 3 OT T
SJ 2 1 1 15
VAN 2 1 1 04

D. Sedin (Canucks - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 2

J. Thornton (Sharks - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 4

C. Ehrhoff (Sharks - D): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Thornton's four assists help Sharks clinch playoffs

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Joe Thornton assisted on four goals, including Christian Ehrhoff's winner just 34 seconds into the overtime, and the San Jose Sharks earned a playoff spot with a 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.

Thornton, who also set up Scott Hannan's tying goal with 4:03 left in the third period, went end to end before peeling off in the corner and spotting Ehrhoff alone in the slot. The Sharks defenseman snapped a quick shot over the glove of Alex Auld as the Sharks won their sixth straight, finally ending a long, unlikely comeback from early season struggles.

The Sharks' turnaround started with Thornton's arrival. San Jose was 8-12-4 before adding him in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Bruins on Nov. 30. The Sharks are 34-14-7 since, with Thornton collecting 86 of his 119 points -- second most in the NHL -- since arriving in San Jose.

Few were more important than his four assists against the Canucks. After falling behind 2-0, Thornton set up a pair of goals with pretty passes, rallying the Sharks before the first period ended.

First he sprung Grant Stevenson with a pass from behind his own net to the far blue line and Stevenson converted the breakaway with a shot over Auld s glove with 2:39 left in the period. Thornton spotted Nils Ekman out of the corner on a power play 1:37 later and Ekman, alone in the slot, one-timed it past Auld.

Milan Michalek gave the Sharks the lead 7:52 into the second, but Daniel Sedin tied it on the power play later in the period and Bryan Allen gave the Canucks another lead 6:14 into the third.

Then Thornton took over again. His pass from behind the net found Hannan alone in the slot and the Sharks defenseman buried a shot over Auld s right shoulder. It was more of the same -- except this time out of the corner -- on the winner, improving Thornton's NHL-best assist total to 91.

Despite the loss, Vancouver moved a point behind eighth-place Edmonton in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Both teams have two games left, including a rematch between the Canucks and Sharks in San Jose Thursday.

Mattias Ohlund and Markus Naslund also scored power play goals for Vancouver, and Sedin added a pair of assists for the Canucks, who have just one win in the last six games.

Vesa Toskala finished with 20 saves for his sixth straight win.

Game notes

The Canucks won their first two games against the Sharks this season, but both came a week before San Jose made the trade to add Joe Thornton. ... After visiting San Jose on Thursday, the Canucks will host Colorado on Saturday to finish their regular season. ... The Sharks have three games left, all at home against the Canucks, Anaheim and Los Angeles, and are within striking distance of the fifth-seeded Mighty Ducks and fourth-place Nashville. .. Canucks D Eric Weinrich was a healthy scratch after going pointless with a minus-12 rating since being acquired from St. Louis at the March 9 trade deadline. D Sean Brown, acquired from New Jersey the same day, took his place. ... Thornton has more assists than any Canucks player has points.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press