SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - A five-day break in the schedule did nothing to dull Joe Thornton's sharpness or the San Jose Sharks' winning edge.
Thornton had a goal and an assist in his sixth straight multipoint performance, and the Sharks remained unbeaten in six games since his arrival with a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
Jonathan Cheechoo, Alyn McCauley and rookie Milan Michalek also scored for the Sharks, who returned from their mini-vacation with the same flair and passion they've shown ever since Thornton was acquired from Boston on Nov. 30.
``We looked fresh,'' Thornton said. ``We looked good, all 20 guys.''
Thornton set up Cheechoo's team-leading 13th goal and then scored one of his own in the first period. The Sharks weathered Washington's strong third period to finish their ninth consecutive victory over the Capitals, as McCauley clinched it with his eighth goal on a pass from captain Patrick Marleau with 4:16 to play.
Thornton's goal came on one of the exceptional physical plays that seem to come so easily to him. He vaulted onto one skate along the boards to elude defenseman Ivan Majesky's hip check and then raced unchecked to the net, beating goalie Olie Kolzig easily.
``I just picked up my speed and went around the defenseman,'' Thornton said. ``The other defenseman kind of picked up Cheech, and there was an open net.''
He made it sound easy, and it looked simple as well. He has 14 points in his six games in teal - and so does Marleau, who also extended his scoring streak to six games. Scott Thornton even picked up two more assists on his cousin's line.
``We were sharp right from the get-go, but we looked pretty sharp in practice,'' said Sharks coach Ron Wilson, who led Washington to the 1998 Stanley Cup finals during five seasons behind the Caps' bench. ``We talked about (the layoff) at length before the game, and I thought we responded well. Obviously, it helps having a guy like Joe Thornton making the plays he did.''
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 25 shots to remain unbeaten in seven meetings with the Capitals. He lost his bid for his first shutout of the season on Ben Clymer's deflection goal with 12:12 to play.
Kolzig made 29 saves for the last-place Capitals, who have won just two of their last 10 games. Washington held San Jose scoreless on six power plays, but couldn't match up defensively against both Thornton and Marleau.
``We didn't do a lot of things well until late,'' captain Jeff Halpern said. ``That (Thornton) line particularly, you can't let them go early and let them get their confidence up. Every time I've watched them, they've looked good.''
The Sharks still are in last place in the Pacific Division after an 8-12-4 start and a 10-game winless streak, but after playing 17 of their first 26 games on the road, the Sharks are 4-0 early in a stretch of 13 straight games either in San Jose or against division opponents.
Thornton set up Cheechoo's goal from behind the Caps' net 12 minutes in, adroitly finding his teammate in the slot.
``He made some great passes,'' Washington coach Glen Hanlon said of Thornton. ``They're a hard team to defend when they find the open man and they get them the puck. That's the best passing team we've faced.''
The Sharks' all-rookie line combined on another goal early in the second period. Marcel Goc got the puck ahead to Josh Langfeld for a cross-ice pass to Michalek, who shook off a defender for his fourth goal of a promising season.
The Sharks, already thin on defense since Brad Stuart's departure in the trade, were without Kyle McLaren, who sat out following minor knee surgery. Scott Hannan and Tom Preissing both played approximately half the game in McLaren's absence.
``It's probably more difficult after a (prolonged) break, because you lose some of your game shape,'' said Preissing, who had an assist for his 15th point. ``A lot of what we're doing offensively is helping us. It allows our defense to step up and be aggressive.''
Notes: Five other NHL teams got five-day breaks earlier this season and went 4-0-1 in their first games back. The Sharks get another five-day break from Dec. 31-Jan. 4. ... Only St. Louis and Florida have fewer road victories than the Capitals' three. ... The Caps haven't beaten San Jose since Feb. 20, 1999, and they won't get another chance this season.