Thornton, Sharks eliminate Coyotes

SAN JOSE -- With several key Sharks players resting up for the playoffs, the Phoenix Coyotes had a chance to keep their faint postseason hopes alive.

Unfortunately for the Coyotes, Joe Thornton wasn't one of those Sharks sitting out.

Thornton scored two goals in the first period, and streaking San Jose eliminated the Coyotes from playoff contention with a 3-1 victory Sunday night.

Thornton is the NHL leader with 65 assists, but the All-Star center has been on a goal-scoring tear lately with eight in five games. He scored 14 seconds into San Jose's final meeting of the season with the Coyotes, then scored his 28th goal late in the first period.

"When you're scoring like that, you just want to shoot everything you get a chance to," Thornton said. "Right now, it's just finding the back of the net. Just keep shooting, and you never know."

Thornton has never scored more than 37 goals in his decade-long career as one of hockey's top passers, but his 28 goals this season are his highest tally in five years.

"When you have a centerman that size who's that good and works that hard, you are tough to beat," said Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky, who knows a few things about high-scoring centers.

Curtis Brown also scored and Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves for the Sharks, who have earned a point in every game since Feb. 20 while rolling to the third Pacific Division title in franchise history. They have 36 points over 19 games.

SUNDAY'S GAMES -- Marian Gaborik scored two goals, including the winner three minutes into overtime, and host Minnesota celebrated clinching a playoff spot by beating Colorado 3-2. ... Andrej Sekera scored 39 seconds into overtime to lead host Buffalo over Boston 2-1 and keep alive its threadbare playoff hopes. ... Sidney Crosby set up goals by Marian Hossa and Evgeni Malkin, and Pittsburgh, playing at close to full strength for the first time in weeks, moved into first place in the Eastern Conference by beating the visiting New York Rangers 3-1. ... Johan Franzen scored with 1:39 left in overtime to give Detroit a 1-0 win over visiting Nashville. Dominik Hasek, returning after missing two games because of the flu, stopped 22 shots for his 81st career shutout. Franzen's goal ended the franchise-record 233-minute, 39-second shutout streak of Nashville's Dan Ellis. ... Patrick Kane scored the only goal in a shootout, and host Chicago remained in the hunt for a playoff berth by beating Columbus 5-4. ... Anaheim defenseman Mathieu Schneider scored twice in regulation, and goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere made two stops in a shootout as the Ducks beat visiting Dallas 3-2. ... Trevor Linden broke open a tie game with two goals five minutes apart in the second period to lead host Vancouver over Calgary 6-2.