Sharks' forward Joe Thornton continues reaching career and NHL milestones

NBC Sports BayArea

Sharks' forward Joe Thornton continues reaching career and NHL milestones originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com

There's no denying one of the big highlights of the San Jose Sharks' season thus far was Joe Thornton scoring his 400th career goal. It was pure pandemonium as Marcus Sorensen's dish landed right on No. 19's stick and he flipped into the back of the net, sending both the players on the ice and the fans in their seats into a frenzy.

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But the milestone tracker didn't turn off there.

Viewers at home may have noticed it most times Thornton is shown on their TV screen. Fans attending games surely pay attention when he's shown on the center-ice cube with a swanky stat next to his face – which is often followed by him looking up and cracking a smile.

Thornton is continuing to pave his path into the Hall of Fame, and we're all just here to witness it.

Since tallying that 400-goal marker he's continued to collect points and make his way up both the NHL's all-time points list and assists lists. On November 23, his set up of Timo Meier's power-play goal against the Vancouver Canucks helped him pass Mario Lemieux on the league's all-time assists list. It also put him just 24 points out of reach of 15th on the all-time points list – a perch currently being occupied by another hockey great, Teemu Selanne.

This past Wednesday night against the Hurricanes, Thornton did it again. The set-up man extraordinaire collected three apples on the evening to register the 58th three-assists game of his career. To put into perspective how big of an accomplishment that is, Steve Yzerman and Jaromir Jagr each tallied 59 three-assist contests during their tenures in the league. 

The feat also tied Thornton for 10th with former Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic on the NHL's all-time list for multi-assist games. Of course, the three markers also bring him to 1,037 career assists, just three behind Marcel Dionne at 10th place on the NHL all-time list.

With the rate at which he's putting his mark of the game of hockey, it's easy to forget how the season started for Jumbo Joe. He played just two regular season games at the start of the 2018-19 campaign before swelling in his surgically-repaired right knee sidelined him for a couple weeks. But the setback – added to the amount of recovery time he had to put in last season – never appeared to deter the 39-year-old forward from getting back to a place where he could help San Jose win.

In the days leading up to his return, Thornton was always one of the first skaters on the ice at Sharks practice, working with his teammates on his way to getting back into games.

"That's a lot of recovery and rehab," teammate Kevin Labanc told NBC Sports California after Thornton notched his 400th goal, "and for him to come back and be just as good as he is… It's just incredible."

What's incredible still is that the 39-year-old forward is continuing to put that hard work to use night after night. And, night after night, he surpasses another milestone. With so much hockey still left this season, it's anyone's guess how quickly Thornton will reach his next milestone.

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