VANCOUVER â€” Patrick Marleau didn’t want to mess around with his march to 500 goals.
The way the veteran San Jose Sharks sniper has been putting the puck in the net, it’s no surprise he got it over with quickly.
Marleau scored the 500th goal of his career in the first period Thursday as the red-hot Sharks cruised past the Vancouver Canucks 4-1. The 37-year-old Marleau is the 45th player in NHL history to accomplish the feat, and just the 18th to do it with their original team. He also reached the milestone with lightning speed thanks to seven goals and one assist over his last five games.
Quiet and reserved since his rookie year in 1997, Marleau said after Thursday’s morning skate that he wanted to get to 500 as soon as possible, mainly because it would put the questions to bed.
“Yea, that’ll do, getting it right away,” Marleau said with a smile in an empty Sharks’ locker-room after burying his 19th of the season. “It was good to get it out of the way.”
Sharks defenceman Brent Burns caught the short-handed Canucks napping midway through the first period with a stretch pass to Joe Pavelski, and he in turn found Marleau, who made no mistake shortside on Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller.
“It was pretty cool to see,” said Pavelski. “It’s a great milestone. The boys couldn’t be happier for him. He’s put in a lot of work over the years.”
In his 19th season, Marleau has had a sometimes tumultuous career with the Sharks. There were times when it looked like he might be traded, but battling through and getting all 500 of his goals with one franchise â€” and being the first Shark to do it â€” is what he’s most proud of.
“When you hit a mark like this you just start thinking about everybody’s whose helped you along the way,” said Marleau. “Playing with one club and playing with a lot of guys for a lot of years on this team, it means a lot to share that with them and see how happy they are for you.”
The goal also moved him into a tie with Lanny McDonald for 44th overall on the NHL’s all-time list.
“He’s an incredible player. Most guys won’t get to 500 games and to get 500 goals, it’s just an incredible feat,” said Burns, who had a goal to go along with his assist on Marleau’s opener. “You start thinking about how hard each game is and to get 500 goals is just crazy.”
Chris Tierney scored twice to provide the rest of the offence for the Sharks (33-17-2), while Martin Jones made 32 saves as San Jose improved to 8-1-0 over its last nine games to sit three points up on the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division.
Philip Larsen replied for the Canucks (23-22-6), who got 28 stops from Miller. Vancouver, which lost at home in regulation for the first time since Dec. 22 to snap an 7-0-1 run, remains three points back of the Calgary Flames for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference, but do have two games in hand.
The Sharks were coming off Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Chicago after the all-star break, while the Canucks played their first game since a disappointing 3-0 loss to Arizona last Thursday.
“We were a little bit sluggish in the first,” said Canucks forward Daniel Sedin. “After that I thought we played a good-enough game.”
After Marleau opened the scoring 9:30 into the first, Tierney made it 2-0 with 4:01 left in the period when he swatted a rebound home for his fifth.
San Jose, which has now won nine straight regular-season games at Rogers Arena dating back to Jan. 21, 2012, could have easily been up by two or three goals before the breakthrough if not for Miller’s stellar play.
The sleepy Canucks woke up in the second, but Jones made a terrific stop on Loui Eriksson seven minutes into the period, and then two more on Alexandre Burrows late to help preserve San Jose’s 2-0 lead through two.
“We had a good start. We were pretty confident there,” said Pavelski. “The second definitely wasn’t our best period. (Jones) bailed us out. He made some huge saves along the way.”
The Sharks stretched their advantage to three just 53 seconds into the third when Burns banged a shot past Miller for his 22nd of the year. Burns has seven goals and 13 assists in his past 14 games and leads all defencemen with 55 points in 52 games.
Larsen spoiled the shutout bid at 6:35 when his point shot deflected off a Sharks defender and past Jones for his first, but Tierney buried his second of the night on a power play with 5:19 left in regulation to put any thoughts of a Vancouver comeback to rest.
Marleau, who scored four times in one period against Colorado last week, said San Jose’s current run makes his achievement all the more special.
“It’s great being on a roll and having the team win,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun right now with this group of guys. We’ve got to keep it going.”
Notes: Vancouver forward Jannik Hansen, who missed his 17th straight game with a sprained knee, returned to practice this week wearing a brace. He hopes to play Saturday when the Canucks host Minnesota. … San Jose hosts Arizona on Saturday.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press