Thornton responded to a hit from Jared Boll on the opening shift by scoring twice and Antti Niemi posted his second straight shutout to lead the Sharks to a 6-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
"Everybody wakes up," Thornton said. "You get more into the game. Kind of a wakeup call. Gives the group a wakeup call. It was a good hit to take. Get the two points and move on."
Four of San Jose's goals came on second chances as Steve Mason struggled to control his rebounds all game. Mason finished with 37 saves as the Blue Jackets lost their fifth straight.
"Three of those goals were self-inflicted," interim coach Todd Richards said. "We had control of the puck and they took it away from us and scored. We made it harder on ourselves with poor puck management. ... Clearly we were not good enough tonight. Not enough guys doing the right things for us to have success."
With a daunting second-half schedule that includes a nine-game, 15-day road trip with three sets of back-to-backs this month, the Sharks could ill afford a slipup at home against the NHL's worst team.
San Jose came out strong as the struggling power-play unit delivered a goal, the team tied its second-highest scoring game of the season and Niemi made 30 saves for his 17th career shutout. This one came in front of his father, Veikko, who was watching his son play in the NHL for the first time.
The Sharks looked well-rested while the Blue Jackets just appeared rusty. San Jose had 16 of the game's first 20 shots on goal and broke out to a 2-0 lead before the midpoint of the first period. The game was never in doubt after that.
After a sluggish power play following a penalty on Boll for hitting Thornton in the head just 20 seconds into the game, the Sharks got rolling.
"It created a lot of emotion in the game," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "I think as a coach you're always worried about whether the guys will be sleepy and what will trigger the game, and 30 seconds in guys are on their toes already with the play. So that was a good thing for us. It's not great that Jumbo got an elbow to the head, but it did wake our group up and we played after that."
Marleau got the rebound of Justin Braun's point shot and lifted it past Mason for his 375th career goal midway through the first.
Just 2 seconds after that goal, San Jose's Jim Vandermeer squared off in a fight with Boll in apparent retaliation for the early hit on Thornton. Vandermeer and Boll fought again early in the third, the first of four fights in the period.
"Anytime guys go to battle for each other that just brings you that much closer together and makes the other guys want to fight that much more for everybody else," Vandermeer said. "Sometimes you don't like to see that many, but it's good to see when everybody's got each other's back."
Thornton got his own version of revenge less than 2 minutes after the first bout. Andrew Desjardins pressured Fedor Tyutin into a turnover and Thornton took advantage, putting his own rebound past Mason to make it 2-0.
"You give that team a two-goal lead in the first period and you can't expect to come back," Boll said. "We need a better effort."
The Sharks added two more goals in each of the final two periods, with Pavelski converting from the point on the power play, McGinn knocking in a rebound for his 10th of the season and Handzus getting his first goal since Dec. 15.
Thornton, who hadn't scored in 10 straight games before the break, capped it for his second multigoal game of the season. The Sharks scored as many goals as they had in their previous four games combined.
"We've been working to score some goals," Thornton said. "Hopefully we can get some confidence from this."
F Ryane Clowe missed his sixth straight game for San Jose with facial injuries but could be back Thursday. ... D Jason Demers sat out with a lower-body injury. ... The Sharks recalled F John McCarthy from Worcester of the AHL. ... This was a milestone game for San Jose D Dan Boyle (800th career game), Brent Burns (500th) and Douglas Murray (400th), as well as Mason (200th).