Thornton helps Sharks rout Kings
Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist to give him 999 career points and help the San Jose Sharks clinch their fourth straight Pacific Division title with a 6-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.
Kyle Wellwood added a goal and two assists, and defensemen Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored for the Sharks, who won for the eighth time in nine games. Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi also scored as San Jose moved one point past Detroit for second place in the Western Conference with 103 points with three games remaining.
Michal Handzus scored the lone goal for the Kings, who lost for the second time in seven games and missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth. Los Angeles remained tied for fourth in the West with Phoenix with three games remaining and can clinch the playoffs with either a win or a Dallas loss.
Jonathan Quick was knocked out early in the second period after allowing four goals on 16 shots and Jonathan Bernier didn't fare much better as the Kings allowed six goals for the second time in three games in San Jose this season.
Four nights after clinching the playoffs with a 6-0 victory over Dallas, the Sharks put together another dominating effort to wrap up the division. This one was particularly sweet considering San Jose was in last place in the Pacific following a six-game losing streak in January.
But the Sharks have won 26 of 34 games since then and are headed into the playoffs playing their best hockey. Antti Niemi has started every game during this streak, making 31 saves in this one, and might be able to get some rest with the division clinched.
There was little doubt in this game, with the Sharks striking first just 1:47 into the contest after Alec Martinez was unable to clear the puck out of the defensive zone after a faceoff. Torrey Mitchell stopped the puck along the boards and fired a shot that Quick blocked. Pavelski took the rebound in the slot and converted his 19th goal just 1:47 into the game.
The Sharks added another just a few minutes later when Vlasic beat Quick with a wrist shot following a cross-ice pass from Wellwood for his fourth goal of the season.
The Kings briefly appeared to get back into the game when Handzus knocked a rebound into an open net less than 2 minutes into the second period. But San Jose responded just 22 seconds later when Wellwood tipped a point shot by Vlasic in for his fifth goal.
The rout was soon on with Thornton springing Boyle loose with a cross-ice pass that made it 4-1 and ended Quick's night just 5:33 into the second period. Quick had been particularly sharp against the Sharks this season, winning three of four starts and allowing six goals in the four games.
Thornton's rebound goal midway through the period gave him his 999th career point as he looks to close in on the milestone before the end of the regular season.
The biggest excitement in the third period came when Douglas Murray and Boyle squared off with Los Angeles' Kyle Clifford and Brad Richardson in a pair of fights with 2:50 remaining.
NOTES: The Sharks have outscored their opponents 43-18 over the last nine games. ... Thornton has 11 straight seasons with at least 20 goals, one behind Jarome Iginla for the longest active streak. ... Sharks F Ryane Clowe left the game in the first period with an unspecified injury. ... Monday was the 35th anniversary of the final game ever for the Bay Area's first NHL team, the California Golden Seals, who beat the Kings 5-2 in Oakland.