‘That was vintage Joe Thornton’ against the Kings

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Joe Thornton has been criticized for his past playoff performances.

There wasn’t much, if anything, to blast about Thornton’s game Tuesday, as the San Jose Sharks defeated the L.A. Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal, to even the series at two-games apiece.

Thornton, 33, was a force throughout Tuesday’s game, but particularly in the opening period, when the Sharks outplayed their Californian rivals from L.A, grabbing the lead in the process.

Thornton set up Brent Burns for the first goal of the game, on a slick feed from below the goal line. He had over 19 minutes in ice time and was 12-for-18 in the faceoff circle.

“He was really good in the first period,” Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle told the San Jose Mercury News. “I think that was our team’s best period, and he was dominant out there in the first.

“There’s only so much other teams can do against a guy like that when he’s playing that way.”

So far in these playoffs, Thornton has nine points in eight playoff games.

He was a difference early on in a huge win for the Sharks.

“Joe was dominant tonight,” Sharks center Logan Couture told NHL.com.

“That was vintage Joe Thornton. Unbelievable – creating turnovers, making passes, skating. Skating like a young guy. He was flying. Me personally, got me going. We need Joe to play like that for the rest of the playoffs.”