Nash Scores Twice, Columbus Drops First Game of 2006, 6-3
Puck drops at 10:30 p.m. ET on Thursday
Nils Ekman had four assists for the second straight game in another night of statistical superlatives for the remarkable line centered by Thornton, who tied Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk as the NHL's second-leading scorer with 58 points.
Thornton leads the league with 44 assists in 37 games, including a nifty pass between two defenders to set up Cheechoo's first goal just 3:58 into the first period. The Canadian Olympic team member had his eighth multipoint game in 14 contests since joining the Sharks in a trade with Boston on Dec. 1, scoring 25 points overall.
Cheechoo scored in each period, capping his second career hat trick with his team-leading 23rd goal on a power-play breakaway against goalie Marc Denis with 11:04 to play. The third-year pro, who has seven goals in San Jose's last four games, also had a hat trick against Anaheim on Dec. 20.
Ekman, thriving after his escape from coach Ron Wilson's doghouse, tied the San Jose franchise record with eight points over the last two games, nearly doubling his points total for the entire season. He assisted on all three of Cheechoo's goals and on Thornton's 15th early in the first period.
Christian Ehrhoff and rookie Grant Stevenson also scored for the Sharks, who returned from a five-day break with their second straight victory following a four-game winless streak.
Rick Nash scored two power-play goals for Columbus, which returned from its own four-day break in a five-game road trip. Mike Rupp also scored for the Blue Jackets, still tied with St. Louis with a league-low 25 points.
Vesa Toskala made 28 saves for the Sharks in his second straight victory in place of slumping starter Evgeni Nabokov.
San Jose took a two-goal lead into the third period after Stevenson poked a loose puck through the pads of Denis, who made 33 saves, including a handful of stunners.
Columbus cut the lead to 4-3 on Nash's second power-play goal in the opening minute of the third period. Ehrhoff got his first goal of the season a few minutes later, and Cheechoo completed the hat trick midway through the period on a two-on-none pass from Ekman.