There's an irony that Joe Thornton, best known for dishing out assists on the ice, ended his night with a puck being handed back to him.
Thornton picked up his 1,000 career assist when he got a helper in the San Jose Sharks' 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday. Joe Pavelski had scored an empty-net goal with 26 seconds left for a 3-1 lead, with Marc-Edouard Vlasic picking up the first assist and Thornton the second.
Tomas Hertl hustled to pick up the souvenir puck for Thornton, a veteran of 19 NHL seasons, so that he'd have a keepsake from the milestone point.
"What can I say? It's pretty cool to get there," said the 37-year-old Thornton. "I've been waiting a while now, but to get it over with it's kind of nice, but good game for the guys overall tonight. It was a good win."
Aaron Dell stopped 31 shots in his 14th game for the Sharks (39-19-7), who were coming off a 3-1 loss Sunday in Minnesota.
Pavelski scored his team's first and last goals, while Mikkel Boedker netted a key short-handed goal for the 2-1 lead at 7:26 of the third period. Jets rookie Patrik Laine had a pass attempt knocked down by San Jose centre Logan Couture. Boedker picked up the puck and went on a breakaway, firing a high shot past Connor Hellebuyck.
Boedker's ninth goal of the season came when there was only six seconds left in a tripping penalty to Sharks defenceman Paul Martin.
"There were stretches of play where we controlled and they had stretches where they controlled," Jets forward Adam Lowry said. "Unfortunate break there at the end that they get the short-handed goal to kind of take the lead, but I think we fought hard till the end."
Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets in the first period with a laser-beam slapshot into the corner above Dell's glove. Mark Scheifele netted his 28th of the season with seven seconds left in game.
Hellebuyck made 27 saves in his 11th straight start for Winnipeg (30-31-6).
"There's no sense dwelling on this, we have to move onto the next one," Morrissey said. "It's going to be a tough test again."
Winnipeg hosts the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, while the Sharks travel home to host Washington.
Dell said his biggest stop was in the final minute, when he denied Laine a goal off his usual wicked one-timer.
"I've seen him make that play a lot," Dell said. "I know they were looking for it. I kind of kept it in the back of my mind that whole time. I was pretty prepared to get there when they made the play."
Winnipeg had also pulled Hellebuyck for the extra man.
"Given the time on the clock and being six-on-five, I'd say that's the most important one I made," Dell said of the save.
Hellebuyck also had some big saves, but fell victim to a bad bounce on Pavelski's 22nd goal at 9:45 of the first period. The netminder had stretched out to make a stop, started falling and the rebound went underneath him to Pavelski at the front of the crease.
Winnipeg outshot San Jose 13-7 in the first period, but the Sharks flipped the edge to 23-20 in their favour after two.
The loss kept the Jets at 66 points as they failed to move up in the hunt for an NHL Western Conference wild-card spot. Winnipeg remains tied with idle Los Angeles Kings and one point behind St. Louis, which holds the second wild-card berth.