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Thornton, Marleau turn back the clock in win over Devils

The top two picks in the 1997 draft looked like their old selves and achieved a pair of major milestones.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

SAN JOSE — Joe Thornton scored his 900th point as a Shark, and moved into a tie for 25th on the NHL’s all-time assist list in a 4-0 win over the New Jersey Devils last night. Yet in front of the assembled media in the aftermath of a major career milestone, Thornton was quick to, do what he does so well on the ice: set up others.

“I’ve been here a long time [and] played with some real good players,” Thornton said after the game. “That’s what it comes down to. I’ve been lucky to play with Jonathan Cheechoo, [Patrick Marleau]. So many different guys, so many great players. It’s a thank you all of those guys too.”

Thornton played with one of those players he credited for the milestone, as head coach Pete DeBoer continued the reunion of Thornton, Marleau, and Joe Pavelski for the second straight game. DeBoer iced the trio in the third period of San Jose’s overtime loss on Saturday, and the line propelled their performance from that game into last night’s win over the Devils.

Only three of the Sharks’ line combinations since 2007 have played more minutes together than Marleau, Thornton, and Pavelski. Their chemistry was apparent from the line’s first shift onward, as the trio generated many of the Sharks’ chances throughout the game.

Marleau, though, was the only one to find the back of the net. He achieved a milestone of his own with his first period goal, the 486th of his career, as he moved into sole possession of 48th place on the NHL’s all-time goal scoring list.

“[Against Arizona] he looked so powerful, and tonight he was so powerful again,” Thornton said. “Hopefully he sticks with me and [Pavelski] because he played great again tonight.”

A handful of players have played on the wing with Thornton and Pavelski this season, but none have consistently stuck. Thornton attributed that to the up-and-down nature of the Sharks season so far, as no combinations have led to a prolonged winning streak.

Marleau has bounced around the lineup, playing center, wing, and across the top nine forward spots. Age is starting to catch up, as his six points in 19 games would be by far the lowest rate of his career. But for one night, and alongside two of his most common linemates during his time in teal, Marleau looked like his old self.

“I thought it was probably his best game of the year,” DeBoer said. “It’s a good sign and [he’s] got to keep that going.”

The Sharks’ matched their goal-scoring output of their three-game losing streak in last night’s win. They scored at even strength, up a man, and down a man, and DeBoer said that the win should build some confidence going forward.

With no timetable set for Tomas Hertl’s return, the Sharks have a tall task ahead of themselves in his indefinite absence. Now reunited, Thornton and Marleau will need to continue to produce offensively, in spite of their age.

If last night is any indication, a blast from the past could be just what the pair needs to stave off an uncertain future.