VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – Tomas Hertl knows the San Jose Sharks might need him now more than ever.
Hertl scored twice in the first period to snap a 16-game goal drought before fellow center Joe Thornton went down with an apparent injury to his left leg, and the Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 Sunday.
With San Jose already missing Logan Couture after he took a puck to the face last weekend, Thornton crumpled to the ice with about three minutes left in the first when he ran into Vancouver forward Michael Chaput.
The 37-year-old managed to get to the San Jose bench under his own power, but couldn’t put any weight on his left leg and had to be helped to the locker room.
“I need to show my best with these guys missing,” said Hertl, who sat out 32 games earlier this season with an injury to his right knee that required surgery.
Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said Thornton will be re-evaluated Monday, but expected his team to rally without its top two centers.
“You can’t roll over and just quit,” DeBoer said. “It’s a great challenge for us … we’re confident as a group. We’re a team that’s a sum of our parts, not about one or two guys.”
Patrick Marleau scored an empty-netter and Martin Jones stopped 29 shots to help the Sharks win their 11 straight regular-season game at Rogers Arena, dating back to Jan. 21, 2012.
San Jose’s Jannik Hansen picked up an assist in his return to Vancouver.
“It was a little weird stepping out on the ice, warming up in the wrong end,” said Hansen, who played parts of 10 seasons in Vancouver before getting traded to the Sharks on Feb. 28. “Once the game starts it’s business.”
Sven Baertschi scored for the Canucks and Ryan Miller finished with 22 saves.
“It takes something positive to get our energy up,” Miller said. “That’s tough.”
The Sharks entered play one point up on the Flames for third in Pacific Division after falling 5-2 in Calgary on Friday. San Jose clinched a playoff spot last week, but is just 2-8-0 over its last 10 after a 7-2-0 run. The Sharks remained four points behind first-place Anaheim, which beat Calgary, and moved two behind Edmonton for second in the division.
Vancouver, 2-9-2 over its last 13, is set to miss the postseason for the third time in four years and has not won at home since Feb. 18, going 0-8-3 since. The Canucks’ last win in regulation at home came Jan. 20 against Florida.
The Canucks, who last picked up a victory in regulation at home on Jan. 20, have scored just 170 goals this season. Vancouver set a franchise low – not including lockout-shortened campaigns – with 186 goals in 2015-16 and look almost certain to dip below that with four games left on the schedule.
“We were really good at home early on. That’s what kept us alive,” Canucks forward Daniel Sedin said. “We were really bad on the road. Lately we haven’t been good enough at home.”
Hertl opened the scoring with his first goal in 17 games nine minutes into the opening period on a weird sequence. Vancouver forward Drew Shore was stripped in his own zone, with the puck eventually finding its way to Mikkel Boedker. His initial backhand was stopped by Miller before Hertl popped home the rebound for his ninth of the season.
The Sharks’ forward then made it 2-0 just under two minutes later when Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s point shot hit Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler in front and bounced right to Hertl, who buried his second.
Jones, who came in just 1-5-0 over his last six decisions with an .856 save-percentage, wasn’t overly busy, but had the shutout bid broken with 3:53 left when Baertschi’s weak shot leaked under his arm for his 18th.
The Canucks pressed late, but Marleau sealed it into an empty net – his 27th goal of the year – with 2.6 seconds left.
“It was a gutsy effort,” said DeBoer. “Couture’s out, (Thornton) only played five minutes. … The rest of the guys responded and got a much-needed two points for us.”
NOTES: The Canucks paid tribute to Hansen with a video tribute during the game’s first television timeout. … Thornton has 1,391 career points, tied with Brett Hull for 22nd place all-time. … The Canucks announced before the game that forward Jason Megna had signed a one-year, one-way contract extension worth $675,000.
Sharks: Host Vancouver on Tuesday night to complete the home-and-home set.
Canucks: At San Jose on Tuesday night to start a two-game trip before returning home for a home-and-home against Edmonton next weekend.
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