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the Sharks need to give Jones more help – Daily Democrat

DALLAS — On a night where Joe Thornton reached a major milestone, the Dallas Stars played the role of party poopers, blowing out all 1,500 of the candles on his cake.

Thornton, 39, became the 19th player to reach the 1,500 game plateau Thursday, a list led by Gordie Howe (1,767), Mark Messier (1,756) and Jaromir Jagr (1733). Among active players, only Patrick Marleau (1,590), Thornton’s teammate for 12 years, has played more games. The Stars honored Thornton by showing a video montage of his highlights on the cube and he received a standing ovation from the visiting crowd, showing just how well-respected he is across the league.

Unfortunately, the Sharks failed to get Thornton a win, dropping a 4-3 decision in a pond-hockey game with the high-flying Stars.

Here’s what we learned as the Sharks (8-5-3) lost just their second regulation game in 10 tries in the Lone Star State:

1. Oh so close for Joe.

Hairs stood up on necks across Sharks territory Thursday as Thornton skated in all alone on Stars netminder Anton Khudobin with a chance to tie the game and just 1:02 left on the clock.

What better way to celebrate game No. 1,500 than to tie it up by scoring goal No. 400 with the extra attacker on the ice? But Khudobin closed the book on the near-fairytale ending by squeezing his pads together as Thornton tried to slip the puck through his legs.

“Oh man,” Thornton said. “I dialed in five hole the whole way. I’d like to have it back, but you can’t.”

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Earlier in the game, the Sharks climbed out of a 3-1 hole off Joe Pavelski’s seventh goal and Evander Kane’s first tally in 12 games. But a blocked shot found the tape of Devin Shore’s stick just 10 feet from the net with 5:47 left in the third, setting the stage for the dramatic Thornton vs. Khudobin showdown.

“Everyone had a little something in their stomach (for Thornton),” Pavelski said. “It would have been awesome to see him slide one in there at the end and tie it up for us.”

Still, Thornton managed to inch closer to Mario Lemieux for 11th place on the NHL’s all-time assists list when he earned the secondary assist on Pavelski’s goal in the second. With one more assist, Thornton will tie Lemieux with his 1,033rd career apple.

Speaking of remarkable achievements, the fastest Shark to 11 goals in franchise history stayed hot Thursday night. Timo Meier punched in his 12th on a pass from Kevin Labanc as he bull-rushed the net in the first. The goal put Meier in a tie with Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak for first place in the NHL’s goals race.

But the night belonged to Thornton even though the Sharks fell one goal short of icing his cake.

“It would have been a nice finish,” head coach Pete DeBoer said. “I know the guys played hard. They wanted to win tonight for him. It wasn’t lack of effort. Just execution.”

2. The Sharks need to do more for Martin Jones.  

If the Sharks are going to go where they want to go this season, they’ll need to see a dramatic change in at least one aspect of their game as they head toward the dog days of winter.

Winning the Stanley Cup requires elite goaltending and the Sharks entered Thursday’s game ranked dead last in the NHL in save percentage (89.59 percent). Jones clearly isn’t playing his best hockey yet. Without looking at a single video, it’s easy to conjure four or five goals from memory that he surely would have liked to have back. But the Sharks can also help their goalie out by reducing the number of high-danger scoring chances that he faces.

“Obviously, that position could be a little bit tighter, but I also think we’ve given up some more high-quality chances than maybe we have in the past. We’ve been a little looser,” DeBoer said after the Sharks morning practice Thursday. “That’s a team stat.”

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The squad put DeBoer’s theory on display Thursday. The Sharks needed to play catch up late in the game in large part because the Stars capitalized on a pair of high-danger chances in the second. Tyler Seguin got a look from the doorstep after he intercepted a soft D-to-D pass from Brenden Dillon to Erik Karlsson and he buried it to break a 1-1 tie. Then, Gemel Smith gave the Stars a two-goal cushion, tapping in a tic-tac-goal on the rush after Brent Burns and Melker Karlsson got caught up ice.

The Sharks surrendered 14 high-danger chances (Natural Stattrick) on 22 shots and Jones kept them in the game by making 18 saves, including three off breakaways.

“We don’t have any questions about our goaltending,” Pavelski said. “The save percentage, whatever it says, it doesn’t feel like that.”

3. Burns reaches his own milestone.

As Thornton carved his name into the record books, Burns reached a milestone of his own, recording his 400th and 401st assists.

For anyone who’s ever made their way to Sharks practice a half-hour early, No. 400 looked rather familiar. Pavelski redirected a shot-pass from one knee in the slot, a play he and Burns have practice over and over again before the rest of the team steps on the ice at practice.



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