SAN JOSE, Calif. – The top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley didn’t get the start for the San Jose Sharks, but they sure did finish.
Thornton had his fourth career hat trick and added two assists in San Jose’s 5-2 victory over slumping New Jersey on Wednesday night. Marleau and Heatley each had a goal and three assists, giving the trio 13 points.
“It seemed like every time I stepped on the ice we were scoring,” said Thornton, who has five goals and seven assists in eight games this season.
Coming off a 4-0 loss Sunday night in Calgary, the Sharks (4-3-1) won for the third time in four games and for the first time this season in four home games.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he was sending a subtle message to his No. 1 line by not having it on the ice to start the game.
“I think they read the writing between the lines and responded,” McLellan said. “They’re a team of game-breakers who play desperate. That was something we were waiting for from that line. It was a really good display of leadership.”
David Clarkson and Andy Greene scored for the Devils. New Jersey has lost three straight and five of its last six to drop to 2-7-1 under first-year coach John MacLean.
“We started out good, getting the puck deep, then four turnovers and they get their first goal off it,” MacLean said. “It can be done. We can get the puck in deep then go to work on it. I mean, that’s what San Jose did. That’s what their big line did all night. They got the pucks down low then got the goals off it.”
Thornton opened the scoring midway through the first period. Marleau bounced a pass off the boards near centre ice to Heatley, who took the carom and found Thornton streaking down the centre of the ice. Thornton turned and fired from inside the left circle, beating goalie Martin Brodeur.
The trio struck again 1:19 later. While Thornton and Heatley battled with two defenders along the boards behind the net, Marleau slipped in between the four players and grabbed the loose puck and turned for a wraparound goal that beat Brodeur on the right side.
Thornton made it 3-0 with 1:01 left in the period, tapping the puck past Brodeur from close range.
“Joe’s making a conscious effort to go to the net,” Marleau said. “Our line did get off a lot of shots. We were having a lot of fun out there, and this is something we can definitely build off.”
After Clarkson scored for New Jersey early in the second, Thornton completed the hat trick on a power play with 3:05 left in the period. Heatley sent the puck into the boards to the far left of the net, Brodeur came out to get it, but the puck caromed past him, and Thornton scored into the empty net.
Thornton set up Heatley in front of the net for San Jose’s final goal at 6:47 of the third.
Greene scored on a power play with 5:38 remaining for New Jersey, which has been outscored 14-4 during its three-game losing streak.
NOTES: Among NHL players 31 or younger at the start of the season, Thornton has the most points with 943. He also has an NHL-high 696 points since the 2002-2003 season. … Sharks forward Joe Pavelski’s wife, Sarah, gave birth to their first child, Nathan, on Tuesday night. … Sharks wing Ryane Clowe and New Jersey defenceman Matthew Corrente had a lengthy fight late in second period.