SAN JOSE Its not very often that a vicious elbow to the head results in anything positive, but for Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks, a 6-0 blowout victory over the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets could probably be traced to just that.
No more than 20 seconds into the game at HP Pavilion on Tuesday night, Columbus Jared Boll hit the Sharks captain with a high hit to the noggin. The Sharks didnt score on the ensuing power play, but the play triggered a wave of emotion on the bench and set the tone for what turned out to be not only a lopsided victory, but a physical and nasty contest throughout.
And it was Thornton leading the way, with two goals and an assist.
You get more in the game, just kind of a wake up call, Thornton said of the reaction to the hit. It gives the group a wake up call. It was a good hit to take, and get the two points, and move on.
It created a lot of emotion in the game, Todd McLellan said. As a coach, youre always worried about whether the guys will be sleepy and what will trigger the game. Then, 20 seconds in, the guys are on their toes already and ready to play. That was a good thing for us. Its not great that Jumbo got an elbow to the head, but it did wake our group up and we played after that.
San Jose scored two goals in each of the three periods, including several in and around the crease an area of concern for the club, which entered with two goals or less in six of its last eight games.
Among the markers from close range were Patrick Marleaus goal at 7:53 of the first period which opened the scoring, Jamie McGinn depositing a rebound at 16:55 of the second period to make it 4-0, and Michal Handzus goal after McGinn forced a turnover in front of the Columbus net early in the third to make it 5-0.
Tonight, the pucks went our way. We dug, and we poked, and we prodded, and they went in the net. A very good job by all the lines to get there, and the D to get the puck to the blue paint to begin with, McLellan said.
Less than two minutes after Marleau opened the scoring, Thornton took advantage of a terrible turnover by Fedor Tyutin, staying with his own rebound to make it 2-0 at 9:43. Andrew Desjardins, playing on the teams first line, helped cause the turnover by charging in on Tyutin who was along the boards and rushed his pass.
Thornton, who assisted on Joe Pavelskis power play marker early in the second to make it 3-0, capped the scoring at 10:54 of the third period. On a three-on-two rush after a nice play by Brent Burns to start the breakout, Thornton deposited a backhanded pass by Pavelski for his 10th goal.
Thats when things got ugly...or entertaining, depending on your viewpoint.
The game already had its share of emotion thanks to the Boll hit, as the Jackets agitator dropped the gloves with Jim Vandermeer on two occassions. The first came after Marleau made it 1-0, and when Boll knew he would have to answer for his early headshot on Thornton.
A big hit on one of our guys, you have to let the their team know we wont stand for that, Vandermeer said. And that was it.
Vandermeer, playing his second straight game at forward, was asked if he challenged Boll to the first fight.
It was kind of mutual. He knew it was coming, and it was either me or Brad Winchester. He picked me, so I switched over to the left side and we went.
A second fight between the two came early in the third, when Boll took exception to a boarding call on Vandermeer. But that was nothing compared to what would happen later in the frame with the game well under the Sharks' control.
It started with a surprising participant, too. Dan Boyle hit Columbus Derek Brassard behind the net, and after some jawing between the two following the play, the gloves came off and Boyle promptly beat up Brassard with a little more than four minutes left in regulation.
Boyle explained how he saw his altercation with Brassard develop.
In my eyes, I could tell he kind of let himself go, he said. He wanted to get hit and wanted to draw ahe made it look worse than it was, and I just didnt like that. I told him not to dive. Then he asked me to go.
As the linesman was restraining Boyle after the fight, Columbus Rick Nash came over to further yap at him. In Columbus last visit to HP Pavilion earlier this month, Boyle and Nash almost fought themselves.
Its because I didnt fight him last time and he wasnt too happy about that, Boyle explained of the most recent confrontation with Nash. But, its game situation. Last time it was a really close game and I didnt feel it was the right time. This one it was a guy my size, too.
The Sharks won that game on Jan. 5, 2-1, as well as the Jan. 14 matchup at Nationwide Arena by the same score.
They werent through, either. Derek Dorsett cross-checked Colin White with less than three minutes to go, setting off another round of fistcuffs between Dorsett and White and Tyutin and Justin Braun.
A total of 92 penalty minutes were dished out in the game, including a season-high 49 to the Sharks, and Vandermeer commented afterwards that its the kind of night that can bring a team together.
I think any time when guys go to battle for each other, it just brings you that much closer together, Vandermeer said. It makes the other guys want to fight that much more for everybody else. Sometimes you dont like to see that many, but its good to see when everybodys got each others backs.
Im glad that we played an emotional game. Its a big thing for our team, McLellan said. I thought we did a really good job of sticking together, and I thought our bigger bodies played important roles in the game today.
Lost a bit in the madness was the fact that goaltender Antti Niemi recorded his second straight shutout. Niemi made 30 saves, following up his blanking of Calgary in the final game before the break exactly a week ago. It was his fourth shutout this season, and came at an opportune time: his father, Veikko Niemi, saw his son play for the first time in the NHL in North America.
Nine Sharks got on the scoresheet, including five who had multiple-point nights. Pavelski, Handzus and McGinn all had a goal and an assist, while Logan Couture recorded a pair of helpers.
For coming out of the All-Star break, that was easily a game you can get emotionally involved in, Thornton said. The guys played well, all around, tonight.
Odds and ends: The Sharks won 47 percent of the faceoffs. Dan Boyle played in his 800th career NHL game; Brent Burns played in his 500th; and Douglas Murray his 400th. Murray recorded his first point, assisting on McGinns goal, since Oct. 31 at Madison Square Garden. Andrew Murray was the lone healthy scratch. Ryane Clowe (facial fracture) and Jason Demers (lower body injury) also did not play. The Sharks recalled John McCarthy earlier in the day.