VANCOUVER, B.C. – The San Jose Sharks have taken care of business on the road. Now Joe Thornton says it’s time to enjoy the comforts of home.
The Sharks, who’ve played 18 of their first 28 games away from HP Pavilion arena, turned in another textbook road effort on Sunday, using a balanced attack to defeat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 at GM Place.
Frazer McLaren, Dan Boyle, Manny Malhotra and Jamie McGinn scored for San Jose, which ended its mini two-game Canadian road trip with a 2-0 record and improved to an impressive 11-5-2 away from home. They are also atop the NHL’s overall standings with an 18-6-4 record.
The Sharks now return home for five straight games.
“We’ve been on the road for so, so long,” said Thornton, whose assist on Boyle’s key second-period goal extended his points streak to eight games. “But I think good teams win on the road and win at home, it doesn’t matter where they play. It’ll be nice to go home and get some home cookin’ for all of pretty much December and January now.”
The high-octane Sharks are led by three of the best forwards in the game in Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau, but it was the supporting cast that crippled the Canucks.
Rookie enforcer McLaren scored his first career goal to tie the game 1-1 at 12:18 of the first period, and veteran defenceman Boyle poked in a Thornton rebound for the go-ahead goal on a power play 6:15 into the middle frame.
“Lately our line has been doing a lot of the work, but we’ve got guys that can score goals and change games on the second, third and fourth line as well,” said Thornton. “You could see that tonight.”
Boyle’s goal came in a second period that was dominated by the bigger, stronger and more talented Sharks, who took advantage of a tired Canucks team that was coming off a 7-3 victory over Edmonton on Saturday.
San Jose outshot the home team 15-4 in the second, thanks to a relentless forecheck and some untimely Vancouver turnovers. The Sharks were rewarded with three straight power plays, one of which Boyle scored on, and ultimately took over the game.
“Unfortunately our second period cost us again,” said Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, who made 26 saves. “We weren’t very sharp and we took a few penalties and they got some momentum there and got the go-ahead goal.”
The Canucks regrouped in the third period, spending the majority of the frame in San Jose territory, but failed to generate many chances on goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
Their best chance to tie the game at 2-2 came with 7:15 remaining, when the puck hit Ryan Kesler’s skate and came perilously close to going in before Nabokov saved the day.
“The puck was crawling toward me, I just kind of kicked it,” said a nonchalant Nabokov, who made 25 stops. “At that time of the game any shot is dangerous.”
Malhotra put the game away with 2:35 remaining, taking a breakaway feed from Ryane Clowe and beating Luongo through the legs with a backhand deke.
McGinn added insult to injury 13 seconds later, whipping in a backhander after defenceman Willie Mitchell’s turnover.
Hansen scored for Vancouver with seven seconds remaining to make the score respectable, tipping in a Wellwood feed.
The teams were tied 1-1 after the first period.
Wellwood opened scoring 1:59 into the game, electing to shoot on a 2-on-1 and beating Nabokov stick side. The much-maligned centre, who went goalless in his first 19 games, is now on a streak of sorts with two tallies in his past three games, although one of those goals was into an empty net.
McLaren’s goal came after some sloppy play from Vancouver defencemen Mathieu Schneider and Christian Ehrhoff, who each turned the puck over. Joe Pavelski took advantage, feeding a wide open McLaren, who tipped the puck in.
NOTES: Thornton’s assist was his league-leading 30th of the season. Brad Richards of Dallas is next with 25. … Rugged Canucks forward Rick Rypien missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury. Darcy Hordichuk took his place and finished -1 in 5:57 of ice time. He also had a minor penalty. … Sharks captain Rob Blake, who missed 11 games with an upper-body injury, returned as well as winger Devin Setoguchi, who was absent from five contests with a leg injury. … Vancouver’s power play, ranked second in the NHL heading in, went 0-4 with no shots on goal.