"It was just unbelievable," said Sharks captain Patrick Marleau, who converted Thornton's cross-ice feed for the Sharks' second goal.
"If that's not the play of the month," said Sharks coach Ron Wilson. "Man, that was a pass and a half. That was Gretzky and then some."
The Sharks could afford to marvel because Thornton almost single-handedly propelled San Jose to its third win in a row.
He scored the winning goal and set up two others as the Sharks beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 and climbed within two points of the Pacific Division lead.
Thornton was on the ice for 25:33 more than any other Shark and the longest he's played in a regulation game this season. He had one strong shift after another, but his pass to Marleau stood out.
Dallas had tied the game at 1 less than three minutes earlier. Thornton had the puck against the half boards to the left of Dallas goalie Marty Turco with Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley seeking to contain him.
He glanced over one shoulder, then whirled the other way and in one motion delivered a backhand pass to Marleau, who put it past Turco to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead.
"We both looked at each other," Marleau said. "He made a couple moves, and he fired it right on my tape."
Thornton deflected credit to Marleau, who has struggled this season. The goal was only the captain's fifth.
"I saw him before I even got the puck," Thornton said. "It didn't seem like anyone was on him, so I just grabbed it and threw it over there. He just stayed there some guys would probably leave that area. It's a tough shot to make because it's not a one-timer. It's more of a shovel shot."
Marleau wasn't the only slumping scorer helped by Thornton.
The Sharks initial goal at 18:15 of the first period came off the stick of right wing Jonathan Cheechoo. Thornton passed the puck to Cheechoo down low and when he tried a cross-crease pass, it went off the skate of Dallas defenseman Nicklas Grossman and into the net.
The win was the Sharks' third in three trips to Dallas this season and improved San Jose's record to 6-0-0-1 in their past seven road games.
Thornton, who now has four goals and 10 points in his last four games.
Report: Attack ordered
TORONTO Todd Bertuzzi's on-ice attack on Steve Moore in 2004, in which Moore sustained a broken neck and a concussion., might have been ordered by former Vancouver Canucks coach Marc Crawford, according to a report aired on CBC's "The National" Wednesday night.
A statement of claim filed in court by Moore's lawyer and obtained by CBC alleges that Crawford pointed to Moore's name and number on a board in the Canucks' locker room during the second intermission of that game and said "... (Moore) must pay the price."
Ducks 4, Sabres 1
ANAHEIM Andy McDonald had a goal and an assist as Anaheim snapped a 10-game winless streak against Buffalo.
Before the game, the Ducks announced that NHL playoffs MVP Scott Niedermayer will rejoin the team after sitting out the first 28 games of the season. Teemu Selanne is still deciding whether to come back or retire.
Penguins 4, Oilers 2
EDMONTON, Alberta Sidney Crosby had three assists in the third period in his first professional game in Western Canada to lead Pittsburgh. It was the first time Crosby played in Edmonton due to the unbalanced schedule.
Coyotes 4, Kings 1
GLENDALE, Ariz. Rookie 19-year-old Peter Mueller had a goal and two assists as Phoenix snapped a four-game losing streak.
Senators 5, Panthers 4
SUNRISE, Fla. Randy Robitaille scored twice, and Ray Emery stopped Kamil Kreps's penalty shot in the third period to help Ottawa snap a seven-game losing streak.
Devils 4, Bruins 3 (OT)
NEWARK, N.J. Patrik Elias scored his second goal of the game with 1:44 left in overtime, and New Jersey extended its winning streak to eight.
Canucks 3, Blackhawks 2
CHICAGO Brendan Morrison scored early in the third period to break a tie and also had an assist for Vancouver.
Flyers 3, Wild 1
ST. PAUL, Minn. Jeff Carter had a goal and an assist to help Philadelphia extend its road winning streak to four games.
Blue Jackets 5, Avalanche 4
COLUMBUS, Ohio Dan Fritsche's goal with 4:05 left capped a wild six-goal third period in Columbus' victory.
Thrashers 4, Islanders 3 (SO)
ATLANTA Slava Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk scored in a shootout for Atlanta.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.