Pavelski is differentiating himself in other ways, too, in top-seeded San Jose's tight first-round series against No. 8 Colorado. The second-line center has been the Sharks' go-to guy, scoring his third goal of the playoffs on Thursday night in San Jose's 5-0 victory over the Avalanche.
Pavelski's power-play goal was the Sharks' second score of the night, and it provided the first lead of more than one goal in the entire series, for either team.
"You're never going to hear me complain about cushions," Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov said with a grin.
Nabokov nabbed his seventh career playoff shutout, and the Sharks took a 3-2 lead in the series, which they could wrap up in Denver on Saturday night. The game time has been set for 10 p.m. Eastern.
Right now, Pavelski is the Sharks' No. 1 star through the first five games, with three goals and two assists.
"Joe is playing good hockey for us," said Ryan Clowe, who is one of Pavelski's wingers along with Devin Setoguchi. "He's determined. He's not the biggest guy, he gets his nose dirty, he's reliable, he has a nose for the net. I just try to get to the net because he loves to shoot it and Seto does, too. I like our line. We're hungry, hungry to produce. We knew we needed secondary scoring and we've done that.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan has sung Pavelski's praises much of the season, and on Thursday, he said, "I like Pav's responsibility on offense and defense. He's a very good player. Remember, Joe missed a month and a bit at the start of the season and it set him back, but he really found his game and peaked with the Olympic team. He really made an impact on that team and it's carried on here.'
Thornton, meanwhile, has registered a quiet two assists in the series, none in the team's score-fest Thursday, and San Jose's top line has been effectively neutralized. Patrick Marleau's late goal in Game 5 was the line's first of the series.
Before Thursday's game, Sharks coach Todd McLellan defended Thornton, who is an All-Star and a gold-medal winning Olympian.
"Joe is obviously one of the best players in the world," McLellan said. "You look at scoring changes, number of shots created for his teammates, he's been great. The difference is the puck hasn't gone in the net. Joe has to compete through that."
The top line, the Thornton line, looked different on Thursday, though. Dany Heatley, scratched because of a lower-body injury in Game 3, didn't appear at full speed in Game 4 and by the end of that contest, he was on the third line with Manny Malhotra and rookie Logan Couture.
McLellan decided to stick with that look, putting Torrey Mitchell on the top line with Thornton and Patrick Marleau – but it was Heatley's new line that came through with the Sharks' first goal in Game 5. Marleau, still on after a change, winged it to Heatley at the right circle, and Heatley found Couture in front of the crease. Couture poked it home for his first-ever playoff score.
The Avalanche, meanwhile, were dissatisfied with the results. Craig Anderson showed cracks for the first time in the series, allowing in four of 33 shots, and Colorado coach Joe Sacco got him some extra rest, putting in Peter Budaj to finish up.
Sacco thought the Avs were especially hurt in the second period by some long shifts in their own end, but, he concluded:
"I feel we got what we deserved tonight. I don't think we played well enough to win for 60 minutes."