By: Joe Lami and Marko Ukalovic
VANCOUVER, BC–Jumbo Joe Thornton made history on Monday night passing Gordie Howe for ninth all-time in assists notching the 1,050th of his career in Vancouver as part of San Jose’s 7-2 blowout of the Vancouver Canucks.
The record-breaking pass came at 17:30 of the second period, as Thornton led a 2-on-1 breakaway finding Kevin Labanc, who slapped it past rookie goaltender Mike DiPietro making it 6-1. On the play, Jumbo Joe also tied Teemu Selanne for 15th in all-time points in the same game he moved into 15th all-time in games played with 1,540.
“There’s no words to describe being in a dressing room with a guy that’s ahead of Gordie Howe now. It’s pretty crazy, he’s a special player” said Logan Couture.
“When you pass Gordie Howe on any list, I don’t care what list it is, that’s the story of the night. It’s an unbelievable accomplishment, unbelievable career and that’s something that should be celebrated, and our whole group is excited to be here to witness it” added Peter DeBoer.
The pair of Thornton and Labanc has been incredible of late as the two have connected for three of Labanc’s four goals in the last two games.
With the win, the Sharks have swept Western Canada and have extended their win streak to six games jumping into first place in the Pacific Division.
The Sharks dominance of Western Canada continued early, as they quickly went up 3-0 on Vancouver before the Canucks could even get a shot on net halfway through the first period.
Timo Meier welcomed DiPietro to the NHL by scoring on the first shot he would see for his 20th goal of the season. Meier became the fifth Shark to hit 20 goals this season, making San Jose the only team in the NHL to have five 20-goal scorers. In just their 57th game of the year, it’s the fastest San Jose has reached the mark in franchise history.
“Tonight, we knew they were in a tough spot starting [DiPietro] and we wanted to jump on him early. We scored on the first couple of shifts and were in control all night” mentioned Couture.
The Sharks continued their dominance with Evander Kane and Melker Karlsson finding the back of the net before the halfway mark. Kane’s 25th of the season came on a fluttering puck from the right point off the backhand that hit Ben Hutton before going in. Karlsson tipped a Brent Burns wrist shot at 8:48 to make it 3-0.
Vancouver finally got their legs going late in the first and registered their first shot at the 12:24 mark. They made it 3-1 right before the final buzzer thanks to a fantastic play by rookie sensation Elias Pettersson who gained the zone and threw a no-look pass to the top of the right circle finding Bo Horvat for an easy one-timer goal with six seconds remaining in the period. Horvat slapped his 20th of the season to the top right corner of the net.
The Sharks didn’t let the late first period goal come back to bite them as they completely dominated the rest of the way. With no backup available for Vancouver, they continued to pound the puck past the 19-year old with Kane scoring his second, Tomas Hertl, Labanc, and Joe Pavelski all jumping in on the scoring.
Vancouver jumped on the board once again in the third to make it 6-2, as Derek Pulliot slotted his third goal of the season thanks to a beautiful pass from Zack MacEwen, recording his first point in his first NHL game.
Pavelski netted his 30th of the season on a deflection play late in the third to make it 7-2. It’s the fifth time in his career Pavelski has hit 30 goals, as the captain continues his career pace.
Most impressively, the Sharks saw all four lines get on the scoring sheet as they dominated five-on-five. Their powerplay was the one weak spot going 0-for-3 and only generating three shots.
Martin Jones was steady in net for the Sharks stopping 25 of the 27 shots sent his way. He continues to lead all goaltenders since the start of December with a record of 18-5-1 and has allowed two goals or less in ten of his last 15 starts.
San Jose returns home as one of the hottest teams scoring at least five goals in the last three games, including four of the previous six. They host the Washington Capitals on Thursday to kick off a three-game homestand.