VANCOUVER — Tomas Hertl knows the San Jose Sharks might need him now more than ever.
Hertl scored twice in the first period to snap a 16-game goal drought before fellow centre Joe Thornton went down with an apparent injury to his left leg as San Jose downed the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 on Sunday.
Already minus Logan Couture after he took a puck to the face last weekend, Thornton crumpled to the ice with about three minutes left in the first when he ran into Vancouver forward Michael Chaput.
The 37-year-old managed to get to the San Jose bench under his own power, but couldn't put any weight on his left leg and had to be helped to the locker-room.
"I need to show my best with these guys missing," said Hertl, who sat out 32 games earlier this season with an injury to his right knee that required surgery.
Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said Thornton will be re-evaluated Monday, but expected his team to rally without its top two centres.
"You can't roll over and just quit," he said. "It's a great challenge for us ... we're confident as a group. We're a team that's a sum of our parts, not about one or two guys."
San Jose forward Jannik Hansen picked up an assist in his return to Vancouver for the Sharks (44-28-7), who have won 11 straight regular-season games at Rogers Arena dating back to Jan. 21, 2012.
"It was a little weird stepping out on the ice, warming up in the wrong end," said Hansen, who played parts of 10 seasons in Vancouver before getting traded on Feb. 28. "Once the game starts it's business."
Martin Jones stopped 29 shots to get the win, while Patrick Marleau added an empty netter.
Sven Baertschi replied with a late goal for the Canucks (30-39-9).
"It takes something positive to get our energy up," said Ryan Miller, who finished with 22 saves for Vancouver. "That's tough."
The Sharks entered play one point up on the Flames for third in Pacific Division after falling 5-2 in Calgary on Friday. San Jose clinched a playoff spot last week, but is just 2-8-0 over its last 10 after a 7-2-0 run and started Sunday four points back of the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks for first in the division.
"It was one of those stretches where everything that could go wrong did go wrong," said DeBoer. "We played better than the record indicated."
Calgary hosted Anaheim later Sunday.
Vancouver, an anaemic 2-9-2 over its last 13, is set to miss the post-season for the third time in four years and has not won at home since Feb. 18, a span of 11 games (0-8-3).
The Canucks, who last picked up a victory in regulation at Rogers Arena on Jan. 20, have scored just 170 goals this season. Vancouver set a franchise low — not including lockout-shortened campaigns — with 186 goals in 2015-16 and look almost certain to dip below that with four games left on the schedule.
"We were really good at home early on. That's what kept us alive," said Canucks forward Daniel Sedin. "We were really bad on the road. Lately we haven't been good enough at home.
"That's what happens when you don't score enough goals."
Hertl ended his goal drought nine minutes into the opening period on a weird sequence. Vancouver forward Drew Shore was stripped in his own zone, with the puck eventually finding its way to Hansen and then Mikkel Boedker. His initial backhand was stopped by Miller before Hertl popped home the rebound for his ninth of the season.
The Sharks forward then made it 2-0 just under two minutes later when Marc-Edouard Vlasic's point shot hit Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler in front and bounced right to Hertl, who buried his second.
"Sometimes you're trying so hard and everything's going wrong," Hertl said of his slump.
Jones, who came in just 1-5-0 over his last six decisions with a pedestrian .856 save percentage, wasn't overly busy, but had his bid for a shutout broken with 3:53 left in regulation when Baertschi's shot leaked under his arm for the forward's 18th.
The Canucks pressed late before Marleau sealed it into an empty net with his 27th of the year in the dying seconds.
"It was a gutsy effort," said DeBoer. "Couture's out, (Thornton) only played five minutes.
"The rest of the guys responded and got a much-needed two points for us."
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