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Mar 29, 2016 12:53 AM

Thornton helps Sharks clinch playoffs with 5-2 win vs. Kings

The Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Joe Thornton scored a tiebreaking, power-play goal early in the third period to help send the San Jose Sharks back to the playoffs with a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

Justin Braun added two goals, Joe Pavelski and Melker Karlsson also scored and the Sharks will return to the postseason after their run of 10 straight trips was snapped last season. Martin Jones made 30 saves.

Vincent Lecavalier scored twice for the first-place Kings, who had their lead in the Pacific Division cut to one point over second-place Anaheim. The Ducks are four points ahead of the third-place Sharks and have a game in hand over both of their California rivals.

Jonathan Quick made 26 saves, including a brilliant one to rob Logan Couture in the closing moments of the second period. But he had little chance to stop Thornton's go-ahead goal in the third.

Just 11 seconds after Jeff Carter went to the box for hooking Joonas Donskoi, the Sharks scored right off the ensuing faceoff. Brent Burns fired a shot from the faceoff circle and Pavelski whacked at the rebound. The puck came to Thornton at the side of the net and he knocked it in to make it 3-2 with 15:32 remaining.

The Kings nearly tied it midway through the period but Braun cleared a loose puck that trickled through Jones from the crease to protect the lead.

Karlsson provided the insurance when he scored off a feed from Tommy Wingels to make it 4-2 with 3:19 to play and Braun sealed it with an empty-netter.

Quick came up big in the second period, stopping Couture on a breakaway early with the Sharks trying to add to a one-goal lead and then robbing Couture again in the closing seconds with a save-of-the-year candidate.

After falling behind 2-1 when Pavelski scored on a tip of Burns' point shot, the Kings tied it when Lecavalier scored his second with a quick wrist shot from the circle that beat Jones.

Los Angeles dominated play after that, but the Sharks nearly took the lead when Couture took a pass in the slot with what looked like an empty net to shoot at. But Quick somehow managed to get his stick across the crease and deflect the puck off the cross bar and out to keep the game tied at 2.

There was a little extra juice in the building at the start for this game between fierce rivals just a few weeks before the playoffs. Fans started their "Beat L.A.!" chants before the Kings even hit the ice but it was Los Angeles that fed off the intensity.

The Kings controlled the play early and took the lead when Lecavalier's wrist shot deflected off Burns' stick and past Jones for a power-play goal with Braun in the box for delay of game.

But the Sharks picked up their play in the second half of the period and took advantage of a strong forecheck to tie the game when Karlsson fed Braun in the slot for a shot that beat Quick.

NOTES: Thornton has points in the last 29 wins for the Sharks, tying Mario Lemieux and Mark Recchi for the fifth longest streak since at least 1989-90. ... Lecavalier recorded his 50th multigoal goal game and first since Dec. 21, 2014, against Winnipeg.


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