By Michael Duca
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SAN JOSE, California (Ticker) -- Joe Thornton made Ron Wilson's
return to San Jose extremely unpleasant.
Thornton recorded a goal and three assists in the first period,
powering the San Jose Sharks to a 5-2 victory over the Toronto
Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
The veteran center's outburst was his first four-point game
since March 3, when he scored two goals and set up two others en
route to a 6-4 triumph over the Montreal Canadiens. Thornton
set a career high in points when he registered five assists
against the Florida Panthers on December 28, 2001 while a member
of the Boston Bruins.
"You've got to get lucky to get that many points in a period,"
Thornton said. "It's very rare. I don't know why I didn't end
up with more. You'd think I would end up with more."
Devin Setoguchi and defensemen Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
- who converted during a power play - also scored in the first
period. Joe Pavelski added a shorthanded tally in the third as
the Sharks posted their eighth straight win.
The victory gave San Jose 21 victories in its first 25 games,
making it the first team in NHL history to accomplish that feat.
"There's no doubt that's a great thing," Boyle said. "I think
the most impressive thing that I've noticed - you could see it
tonight - it's not like we're jumping for joy. We are pretty
focused on the big picture here.
"Obviously, it's a great start, and when it's all said and done,
we can look back and appreciate it, but this time is just the
start of a season. There's a lot bigger and better things to
Sharks coach Todd McLellan took the milestone in stride.
"Obviously, the record is something we're proud of and we're
pleased with, but it is about the process, about the full
60-minute effort," he said. "We had pretty good efforts for the
most part tonight but not consistent enough to be a team that
can win at the end (of the season)."
Now the Maple Leafs' coach, Wilson did not fare well in his
return to HP Pavilion, where he spent parts of the previous five
campaigns behind the bench for the Sharks before being fired
this past offseason.
"(A win) wouldn't have made my season or anything like that,"
Wilson said. "I've coached 1,100 and whatever games, and it is
one game on the schedule. Sure you'd like to do better than we
did tonight, but what are you going to do?
"If we somehow could have survived maybe the first 10 minutes of
the game, I think we would have found our equilibrium. But it
was over. That was one where you throw the white towel in from
the corner in a boxing match."
Rookie Nikolai Kulemin netted his fifth goal of the season,
Niklas Hagman scored in the final minute of the third period and
added an assist and Mikhail Grabovski set up both tallies for
Toronto, which fell to 2-4-2 in its last eight games.
Thornton wasted no time getting on the scoresheet, logging an
assist on the first goal just 75 seconds into the contest.
He took control of the puck just over the blue line and flipped
it to Setoguchi, who was streaking into the offensive zone.
Setoguchi skated in and backhanded a shot from the left faceoff
circle that beat goaltender Vesa Toskala, who finished with 25
The 21-year-old Setoguchi, who also notched an assist, has
recorded 12 goals and 29 points in 25 games this season. Last
campaign, his first in the NHL, he registered 11 tallies and 17
points in 44 contests.
"I felt a little jump just to go in there and play the best I
could," Setoguchi said. "We didn't change the game plan, we
just played the way we could. I think there was just a little
more motivation to beat (Wilson) tonight.
"You don't want Ron bragging. Everyone knows Ron Wilson, and he
gets bragging rights if they beat us. We wish Ron and the
coaching staff best of luck and we have a lot of respect for
Thornton doubled the lead 5:20 later, when the Sharks got a
sixth attacker onto the ice and maintained control of the puck
with a delayed penalty against the Maple Leafs pending.
A shot sailed over the right shoulder of Toskala and hit the
glass behind the net. The puck bounced back, deflected off the
crossbar and fell into the crease, where Thornton jammed it in
for his seventh goal of the season.
San Jose took a 3-0 lead with 4:01 remaining in the opening
session, when captain Patrick Marleau centered a pass to Boyle,
who wristed a shot from the slot past Toskala for his ninth
"They are a very skilled team," said Toskala, a former Shark.
"They don't just throw the puck on the net, they move it around
and have a plan for getting it to the net."
With Toronto defenseman Jeff Finger in the penalty box for
holding the stick, San Jose rolled out its power play and scored
42 seconds into the advantage to increase the bulge to 4-0.
Thornton backhanded a pass through the crease to Vlasic, who put
it into an open net with 2:53 remaining in the period.
"I heard Joe say that pass was meant for Patty (Marleau),"
Vlasic said. "But I thought it was for me, even though Joe
couldn't see me. He's so good, you just expect that from him."
Toronto got on the board at 9:10 of the second. Kulemin
retrieved a deflected puck on the right doorstep and wristed it
over netminder Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 29 shots.
San Jose sealed the win four minutes into the third.
With the Maple Leafs on a power play, defenseman Tomas Kaberle
fell at the blue line while attempting to control the puck,
allowing Pavelski and Milan Michalek to skate down on a 2-on-1
rush. Pavelski kept the puck and flipped a wrist shot over
Toskala's right shoulder for his 11th goal and a 5-1 cushion.