SAN JOSE, Calif. – There was little celebrating for the San Jose Sharks after another convincing clincher as they know they still have so much more to accomplish to make this season truly a success.
Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist to give him 999 career points and help the Sharks clinch their fourth straight Pacific Division title with a 6-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.
“We have a pretty darned good division, so it’s a feather in your cap,” Thornton said. “But we still have some work to do. We’re still fighting to get that second seed. But it’s a good step for us.”
Kyle Wellwood added a goal and two assists, and defencemen Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored for the Sharks, who won for the eighth time in nine games. Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi also scored as San Jose moved one point past Detroit for second place in the Western Conference with 103 points with three games remaining.
Michal Handzus scored the lone goal for the Kings, who lost for the second time in seven games and missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth. Los Angeles remained tied for fourth in the West with Phoenix with three games remaining and can clinch the playoffs with either a win or a Dallas loss.
“They came ready to play and we didn’t,” defenceman Matt Greene said. “It’s a good lesson late in the year that you are never as good as you think you are. Especially if you going to give a good team the opportunity to beat you like we did tonight. We weren’t up to par or anywhere close to where we need to be to get into the post-season.”
Jonathan Quick was knocked out early in the second period after allowing four goals on 16 shots and Jonathan Bernier didn’t fare much better as the Kings allowed six goals for the second time in three games in San Jose this season.
Four nights after clinching a playoff spot with a 6-0 victory over Dallas, the Sharks put together another lopsided win to wrap up the division.
“It seemed like we had a little more jump tonight than they did and were able to capitalize,” Wellwood said.
This title was particularly notable considering San Jose was in last place in the Pacific following a six-game losing streak in January. But the Sharks have won 26 of 34 games since then and are headed into the playoffs playing their best hockey as they hope this is the year they can final make it to the Stanley Cup.
There was little doubt in this game, with the Sharks striking first just 1:47 into the contest after Alec Martinez was unable to clear the puck out of the defensive zone after a faceoff. Torrey Mitchell stopped the puck along the boards and fired a shot that Quick blocked. Pavelski took the rebound in the slot and converted his 19th goal just 1:47 into the game.
The Sharks added another just a few minutes later when Vlasic beat Quick with a wrist shot following a cross-ice pass from Wellwood for his fourth goal of the season.
The Kings briefly appeared to get back into the game when Handzus knocked a rebound past Antti Niemi less than two minutes into the second period. But San Jose responded just 22 seconds later when Wellwood tipped a point shot by Vlasic in for his fifth goal.
“That’s happened a lot to us this year. Giving up a goal after we score one, those are momentum goals,” Kings forward Dustin Brown said. “We never recovered from that goal.”
The rout was soon on with Thornton springing Boyle loose with a cross-ice pass that made it 4-1 and ended Quick’s night just 5:33 into the second period.
Thornton’s rebound goal midway through the period gave him his 999th career point as he looks to close in on the milestone before the end of the regular season.
The biggest excitement in the third period came when Douglas Murray and Boyle squared off with Los Angeles’ Kyle Clifford and Brad Richardson in a pair of fights with 2:50 remaining. Boyle jumped into the fray to help out his defensive partner and completed his “Gordie Howe” hat trick of a goal, assist and fight.
“I turned around and saw two guys hitting at Dougie,” Boyle said. “I know he could probably take two guys any day of the week, but I just wanted to go in there and help him out like he’s been doing for me all year.”
NOTES: TheSharks have outscored their opponents 43-18 over the last nine games. … Thornton has 11 straight seasons with at least 20 goals, one behind Jarome Iginla for the longest active streak. … Sharks F Ryane Clowe left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. … Monday was the 35th anniversary of the final game ever for the Bay Area’s first NHL team, the California Golden Seals, who beat the Kings 5-2 in Oakland.