SAN JOSE, Calif. – Joe Thornton had an unusual decision to make when he prepared for his penalty shot in the third period. Having watched teammate Ryane Clowe already convert a penalty shot with a backhander, Thornton figured he needed to try a different tact.
“I was thinking of going to the backhand but Clowe kind of perfected that earlier,” Thornton said. “So I thought I’d go with the shot and see what I could do.”
Thornton delivered, making San Jose the first team in more than 27 years to score on two penalty shots in a game. The Sharks went on to beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 Wednesday night.
“It’s kind of strange having two in one game,” Thornton said. “I’m not sure the last time that happened.”
It hadn’t happened since Feb. 11, 1982, when Thomas Gradin and Ivan Hlinka converted for Vancouver in Detroit.
That Clowe and Thornton managed to do it could be somewhat surprising considering their records in shootouts. Thornton has missed both shootout attempts this season, while Clowe has made just one of five.
“It was nice to see both of them score,” coach Todd McLellan said. “Maybe we should find a way to do that in the shootout a little bit more often.”
The highly anticipated matchup between division leaders featured four of the top 10 scorers this season and three of top six goalscorers. But it proved to be a mismatch on the ice.
The Sharks overwhelmed Washington in the first period and took control with a pair of goals in a 75-second span, got stellar goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov to hold off the Capitals in the second and coasted to their the win in the third period.
The victory was San Jose’s seventh straight at home against the Capitals, who haven’t won in San Jose since Oct. 30, 1993. They have lost nine games and tied one since then.
“We tried to be so cute tonight it was just killing us,” Capitals star Alex Ovechkin said. “It can’t happen again. When they get the lead 2-0, you have to score. This is a hard building to play in, especially in the first period, they come on hard. The first period here is hard to breath and you just have to get used to it.”
Joe Pavelski scored two goals and Torry Mitchell also scored for San Jose. Nabokov made 24 saves, allowing third-period goals to Ovechkin and Mike Knuble.
The game capped a memorable day for the Sharks. Earlier, five members of the team found out they would be playing in the Olympics. Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle were picked for the Canadian team and backup goalie Thomas Greiss was chosen for Germany.
Thornton scored his 11th goal on the penalty shot in the third period. Jon Erskine got called for the penalty when he lost his stick while diving at Thornton’s legs from behind on a breakaway. Thornton then beat Michal Neuvirth for the goal.
“I don’t think I threw my stick,” Erskine said. “It’s not like something you do as a novice or six years old. But he made the call and there’s nothing you can do about it. I was trying to get the puck and the way I was going after him – my stick hit him and it flew out.”
Clowe converted on his penalty shot late in the second, marking the first time in team history the Sharks have scored two penalty shot goals in a game. Clowe got his when he took control of a loose puck as he came out of the penalty box and was taken down by a sliding Mike Green. Clowe then beat Neuvirth with a backhand to make it 3-0.
“I went back to the well and went to the backhand,” Clowe said. “He’s a young goalie, so he probably hasn’t watched any highlights. So I figured I’d go back and stick with what usually works.”
Nabokov shut down Olympic teammates Ovechkin and Alexander Semin and the rest of the Capitals until the Sharks had the game under control in the third. Ovechkin finally broke through with his 26th goal with a big shot off a face off midway through the third that cut San Jose’s lead to 5-2.
Semin got good chances in the second but was robbed by a glove save and stopped on a 2-on-1 a few minutes later. Nabokov helped San Jose kill four penalties in the second, including a two-man advantage for 50 seconds.
The Sharks controlled the first period, outshooting the Capitals 13-3 and taking a 2-0 lead. It was a stark difference from the first meeting between the teams in October when the Capitals had 17 shots in the first period and won 4-1.
“It wasn’t even close the first time around,” Boyle said. “They were by far the much better team. Tonight we had our legs a little bit. We had a few letdowns but overall it was a good game.”
NOTES: Jason Chimera made his debut for Washington, two days after being acquired from Columbus in a trade for Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina. Chimera assisted on Knuble’s goal. … Mitchell’s goal was his first since Feb. 27, 2008.