Jumbo Joe's got big-time game

Sharks forward Joe Thornton celebrates after defeating the Red Wings to win Game 7 of their NHL...

Sharks forward Joe Thornton celebrates after defeating the Red Wings to win Game 7 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal series in San Jose, Calif., May 12, 2011. (CHAD ZIEMENDORF/Reuters)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:37 AM ET

Clearly, Joe Thornton was out to change his image.

The guy fingers are always pointed at when the San Jose Sharks bow meekly from the playoffs, “Jumbo” Joe looked determined to show that he can, in fact, elevate his play in a big game.

Thornton, who didn’t pick up a point as the Sharks lost three in a row to the Detroit Red Wings leading into Game 7, made the sweet pass that set up Devin Setoguchi to put San Jose up 1-0 in the first period. They say Thornton has great vision, but he also must have an eye on the side of his head, since he was gazing in the opposite direction when he sent the puck through the slot for the one-timer that found mesh.

Thornton had a chance to make it 2-0 a little later when he broke down ice on a semi-breakaway with the Sharks shorthanded. But again he made a pass, again he wasn’t looking at the target, and it was only a great blocker save by Jimmy Howard that kept the home team from padding its lead.

Thornton had a particularly strong first period, but as teammate Ryan Clowe said after the game, “he was a horse all night.”

Much better than being called a dog, as he has been in the past.

Thornton had to know entering the game that he was in serious danger of being a victim in a major housecleaning if the Sharks were to lose.

He played like he very much wanted to stay in San Jose.

Starts and stops

Tired or not, how is it Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were on the bench for the final 28 seconds? They now have all summer to catch their breath ... Watched Logan Couture play junior hockey for four years. Wondered what Sharks GM Doug Wilson was thinking when the picked the former Ottawa 67’s captain ninth overall in the 2007 entry draft. Didn’t think Couture could skate well enough to play in the NHL. Now he has four goals in the last four games and is establishing himself as one of the best all-around players in the league. Good pick, Doug ... TSN’s Chris Cuthbert, moments after the final horn. “This is as good a series as you’re ever going to see.”

Things I think I think

Imagine how much better the Wings would have been with Johan Franzen, who took part in the morning skate but ultimately was given the thumbs down on what was a game-time decision regarding his injured ankle. “You can’t play in this series if you’re not healthy,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said on TSN prior to the opening faceoff. “It’s too fast.” Interestingly, Patrick Marleau is one of the speediest skaters on either team. What was his excuse? ... Marleau tapped in the winner, his first point of the series, but it was Dan Boyle’s pass -- under Brian Rafalski -- to Setoguchi that made the play ... Good one from TSN’s James Duthie: “Neil Young,” he said, identifying the legendary Canadian singer/songwriter wearing a Manitoba Moose cap at the Shark Tank during the second intermission. ”He’s been searchin’ for a Marleau goal ... and he’s getting old.”... Had Patrick Eaves scored with the shot from the goal line that hit the front of the crossbar, it would have been a playoff classic.

Between periods

Google ‘who has the best backhand in the NHL?’ and you will get ‘Zetterberg’ as the answer. Hard to argue with that after the slick Swede’s second period goal, although his superstar teammate tried to add a ‘slash-Datsyuk’ with his in the third ... Former Atlanta Braves chucker Tom Glavine told NHL Home Ice on XM Radio that he’s going to throw some cash behind local investors who aim to keep the Thrashers in The A.T.L. Having been to the Philips Arena on a game night or 12, I see the attempt turning out like the efforts of many on a slow Glavine curve. That is, another swing and a miss ...Hardly recognize Mike Peca without the playoff beard, which he used to have fully grown by, oh, the first intermission of Game 1.

BACK TO THE POINT

Rogers Sportsnet fired host Damian Goddard for echoing remarks, via Twitter, that were made by agent Todd Reynolds, who spoke out against Sean Avery’s support of same-sex marriage. I have nothing at all to say or tweet on the subject ... The Wings couldn’t afford to lose another player before Todd Bertuzzi left in the first period with an apparent head injury. They really couldn’t afford to lose another one when Dan Clearly followed him after having his bell rung in the second.

Sweet tweets

"With Sidney Crosby hurt, Alex Ovechkin declining, Pavel Datsyuk, is, at this eliminating moment, the best player in hockey."

- Sun columnist Steve Simmons (@simmonssteve)

"Shoulder surgery set for Monday! Pray that all goes well! Summer of rehab won’t be much fun but worth it!"

- Nashville Predators centre Mike Fisher (@mikefisher1212)

"Just had a 5 hours afternoon nap!"

- Vancouver Canucks centre Maxim Lapierre (@Lappy14)

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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