SAN JOSE – Joe Thornton heard the chatter behind him while sitting on the bench, as the Sharks’ shootout with the Dallas Stars continued along with no one able to convert.
That’s when he was chosen as the team’s fifth shooter, and subsequently gave his club the extra point in the standings when he powered a puck past Kari Lehtonen in a 3-2 win at SAP Center on Saturday night.
“You don’t really want to know what my reaction was when he called me. It was like ‘oh man.’ The coaches behind me, Larry [Robinson] and Jimmy [Johnson] were kind of talking. … My name was called I was like, alright, hopefully I listen. I just saw a little bit of net, and put it in.”
Thornton is now 2-for-2 in shootouts this season, and both are game-winners, including on Nov. 27 against Los Angeles when his goal in the eighth round was the difference in a 3-2 victory.
“I've seen him win two games for us. We may call [his number] more often,” Todd McLellan said. “That's what you expect from your captain, to step up in those situations and deliver, and he did."
So, too, did goaltender Alex Stalock, who battled through some apparent early nerves before settling in and closing the door early in the second. The 26-year-old stopped 44 of 46 Stars shots, not allowing anything after a puck deflected through him off of Antoine Roussel’s skate at 4:47 of the second period.
That includes the shootout, Stalock’s first in the NHL. He made saves on Rich Peverly, Erik Cole and Ray Whitney in the skills competition, while Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn missed the net. Stalock, in the first home start of his career, improved to 4-1-0.
“I just wanted to be as patient as I could,” Stalock said of his approach to the shootout. “They have so many guys with some talent, and I didn’t want to be aggressive and go poke check them, because they’ll just go around. I just wanted to stay back, and it all worked out.”
McLellan said: “He was in it the whole night, and by the end of the night he felt good. He looked good in the shootout."
In an ironic twist, the Sharks were the beneficiaries of a blown call by referee Mike Leggo. Dallas looked as if it had just taken a 3-0 lead when Colton Sceviour tipped in a loose puck in the crease in the second period, but Leggo blew the play dead despite the puck being anything but frozen.
Leggo was the referee that did not see what should have been Tommy Wingels’ overtime winner in a 5-4 shootout loss to Buffalo on Nov. 5, on a play the NHL laughably tried defending the next day.
On Saturday, the early whistle allowed the Sharks to climb back into the game when Jason Demers’ one-timer cleanly beat Kari Lehtonen at 11:47 to cut the Dallas lead to 2-1. Tyler Kennedy earned the primary assist, ending a 10-game scoreless streak.
“[Kennedy] really sold the shot, and I just tried to shoot as hard as I could, and it went in,” Demers said.
Before his shootout heroics, Thornton’s play at the offensive blue line helped the Sharks tie the game. The play led to a Pavelski backhander from the slot at 4:24 of the third period.
San Jose improved to 2-7-1 when trailing after two.
“Just be aggressive,” Thornton said of the team’s approach to the third. “We were hoping for 20 shots. But, just stay aggressive, stay out of the penalty box. Ee think we can come back in this game, and we did.”
The Sharks were fortunate it was still within reach after two periods, as Dallas poured 31 shots on net through 40 minutes, including several odd man rushes. Stalock survived the storm, though, crediting the players around him.
“The defensemen did a heck of a job clearing rebounds,” he said. “If you go back and watch, I don’t know how many real good second opportunities they had. It was really nice.”
McLellan disagreed with a suggestion that the Sharks stole the two points.
"When you're down two and you come back, it's not necessarily stealing,” he said. “You've stuck with the plan.”