It's become customary, on nights when Stanley Cup Playoff games go to overtime, for puckheads to predict which players will score game-winning goals for each team.
Were one to tabulate those picks for the San Jose Sharks entering their extra session vs. the Los Angeles Kings in Game 6 on Monday night, the name "Joe Thornton" would not have hit the leaderboard. Unless you've been living in a fallout shelter for the last decade, you know the reputation for the Sharks captain and his team when it comes to choking in the playoffs.
Devin Setoguchi(notes) started the play, firing a pass that handcuffed Patrick Marleau(notes) in the slot. The puck bounced off of Marleau, away from Rob Scuderi(notes) of the Kings and then Thornton alertly whipped around Willie Mitchell(notes) to tuck it past Jonathan Quick(notes).
His celebration was classic: The 6-4, 230-pound forward tumbling to the ice and sliding on his back like a human curling stone until he was mobbed by his teammates.
"You just enjoy it for an hour or so," he said on Comcast SportsNet. "This is just the start."
The Kings had their chance to win this. Jamie McGinn(notes) took a 5-minute major for charging and earned a game misconduct at 16:37 of the third period, but LA couldn't convert in regulation or the carryover in overtime. The Sharks killed it, captured the momentum and Thornton's goal arrived moments after the kill. It was Thornton's first career OT goal and seventh playoff game-winning goal.
We felt, as a team, they shook the label as a team last postseason, and continued that progress with their stunning five-goal rally in Game 3 against the Kings. Then, in Game 6, their most maligned star nets the game-winner.
The Sharks have been called a lot of things over the years. Is it time to start calling them clutch?