5 things we learned in the NHL: Thornton makes history in 1,500th game

San Jose Sharks' Brent Burns fires a puck towards Joe Pavelski who redirects it into the Dallas Stars net, despite being down on one knee.

The Oilers, Canadiens and Senators lost while the Canucks scored eight goals in a game for the first time since 2009, and Zach Parise recorded the 700th point of his NHL career.

It was an eventful Thursday night in the NHL. Here are five things we learned.

Thornton hits vaunted 1,500-game plateau

It’s only a matter of time before Joe Thornton is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Before that happens, though, there’s still plenty to celebrate while he’s active and that was the case Thursday when the centre became the 19th player in NHL history to suit up for his 1,500th regular-season game.

Interestingly enough, Thornton is the now the only first-overall pick from an NHL Draft to reach the venerable milestone.

The previous record for most games played by a No. 1 selection was held by Mike Modano. The Michigan hockey legend retired with 1,499 games played and would’ve hit the 1,500-game mark were it not for Mike Babcock making him a healthy scratch for a late-season game against the Minnesota Wild in 2011, Modano’s final season as a pro, when the two were with the Red Wings.

The next-highest draft pick in the 1,500 club is Thornton’s former Sharks teammate Patrick Marleau who happened to go second overall behind Thornton in the 1997 draft.

Of the 19 members in the 1,500-game club, Thornton has more assists than all but six of them. Those six are Hall of Famers Ron Francis, Mark Messier, Ray Bourque, Jaromir Jagr and Steve Yzerman by the way.

Fittingly, Thornton chipped in with a helper Thursday albeit in a losing effort against the Stars. With his second-period assist on Joe Pavelski’s seventh of the season (the 124th time Thornton has helped set up a Pavelski goal) he moved within one spot of Mario Lemieux on the NHL’s all-time list for most assists.

Thornton had a terrific chance to make it a double milestone night but failed to score the tying goal on a breakaway in the waning seconds of the third period, so he’s still sitting at 399 goals for his career.

The Stars got the win and Thornton’s 400th career goal will have to wait until at least game No. 1,501 but the night was all about No. 19 in white.

Way to go, Jumbo! Unreal accomplishment.

Coyotes are wily when shorthanded

The Arizona Coyotes have plenty of work to do before they become an intimidating force in the Western Conference but their special teams play (or at least half of it) is operating at an elite level.

Arizona has been the best team in the NHL when shorthanded so far this season. Their penalty kill is operating at a league-best 91.1 per cent but even more impressive than that is the fact they’ve scored a whopping nine short-handed goals. Nine.

They had seven shorties entering Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers and scored two more just 24 seconds apart while killing off a second-period Vinnie Hinostroza tripping penalty. It is the second time they’ve scored twice on the same penalty this season.

They are the first team since the 1975-76 St. Louis Blues to score shorthanded nine times in the first 14 games of a season.

The Yotes have scored 41 times this season, meaning approximately 22 per cent of the team’s goals come when killing a penalty. Unfortunately (and you won’t hear the word unfortunately used in his context often in hockey) they are among the most disciplined teams in the league. Only five teams have been shorthanded fewer times than the Coyotes.

Guess that means they should totally take more penalties going forward, right?

Hoffman extends impressive point streak

Mike Hoffman had a tumultuous off-season with the Ottawa Senators as harassment allegations against his fiancée arose. He was subsequently traded to the San Jose Sharks then flipped hours later to the Florida Panthers where he has since settled in nicely on the ice with his new teammates.

With an assist that came on a pretty tic-tac-goal involving Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov in the second period of a 4-1 win over the Oilers, Hoffman extended his point streak to 10 games. He’s just the fourth player in Panthers history to do so, joining Olli Jokinen, Jussi Jokinen and Pavel Bure, who did it on three separate occasions during his 223-game Panthers tenure.

Hoffman added another assist on a Colton Sceviour empty netter late in the third to bring his season total to 11 points through 12 games.

Price’s Bell Centre struggles continue

Carey Price has been largely outstanding at the Bell Centre throughout his 12-year NHL career but that has not been the case this season. The Montreal Canadiens were defeated 6-5 in overtime by division rival Buffalo Sabres and Price wasn’t on his game.

“Let’s just cut to the chase really,” Price told reporters following the game. “I just didn’t play very good tonight.”

Price has allowed six or more goals at home six times in his career but three of those times have occurred in his first 12 appearances this season.

His struggles are not a new development either. Dating back to the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Price has a disappointing .899 save percentage and 3.10 goals-against average. Now compare that to the .928 save percentage and 2.16 GAA he posted between the 2013-14 and 2016-17 campaigns and it’s a troubling decline.

“If anything he needs to feel like we have his back and we do,” Canadiens head coach Claude Julien added. “We know how good he can be. He needs to know that his coach and his coaching staff are behind him and believe in him and there’s no reason not to with what he’s accomplished. Unfortunately that position is one that you can really pinpoint. That’s the sad part of a goaltender’s position. We’re looking towards him when the rest of our team wasn’t any better.”

Kane snaps goalless drought

Evander Kane got off to a hot start with four goals in as many games to kick off the season but after that his stick went cold. The winger, acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres midway through last season, hadn’t buried one in 11 games before breaking that streak Thursday against the Stars.

Kane fanned on a shot in the third period but it glided through sticks and legs at a glacial pace and Anton Khudobin could only watch as it slowly slid across the goal line to tie the game at 3-3. Dallas ended up winning the game 4-3 but the Sharks will be happy Kane is off the schneid.

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