Bruins' Thornton: Fighting is necessary part of the game


Bruins' Thornton: Fighting is necessary part of the game

WILMINGTON -- Shawn Thornton isn't shy. He'll tell you that fighting is part of his job. And he won't be lying.

So when some try to use his fight with the 6-foot-8 John Scott as an example to eliminate fighting from the game, they're also trying to take away the job that Thornton is so good at.

"I don't like when people try and take advantage of the situation," said Thornton after Thursday's optional Bruins skate at Ristuccia Arena. "It's part of their agenda. There's fighting in hockey. It's in the game. I think it's a necessary part of the game. I don't think it's going anywhere, so there's no point in really even dwelling on it.

"Plus, I'm a big boy. I know what I'm getting into."

Thornton knew exactly what he was getting into in the opening minutes of last week's game against the Buffalo Sabres at the TD Garden. He understood the six-inch height difference between him and Scott. But he also understands -- to this day -- why he dropped the mitts off a neutral-zone face-off with the Sabres' newly-acquired enforcer, who clearly presented a mismatch.

"Obviously with Buffalo, they brought Scott in probably because of our team," said Thornton on Thursday. "It's my job to make sure that I'm available for that, so it's not one of our star players that has to do it. That's part of my role. And I accept it fully.

"I wish it went differently. I knew it was going to happen, and it was better to get it out of the way early. Would you rather that, or wait until he does something stupid and I have to deal with it. It was out of the way and it was a non-factor after that, I think."

A larger argument for the anti-fighting crowd is that of fights that are "staged." Some would consider most fights that happen off early face-offs can sometimes seem pre-determined to those not on the ice. But Thornton pointed out on Thursday, that just because some fights may look staged to an outsider, that doesn't mean they are.

"There's usually some rhyme or reason to when I'm doing it," said Thornton. "Some may look staged, but there might have been something that happened before. Sometimes it's momentum and all that stuff too.

"Just two guys going out and doing it for no apparent reason, you don't see me do that too often."

Thornton said that Scott hit him in the soft spot behind his ear, which caused his legs to go out from underneath him. Having talked to some fighters outside of hockey, Thornton found out that he had a normal reaction to getting hit in that spot. Had he got hit on the top of the head, Thornton doesn't believe he'd even be still talking about the fight.

But he is, because he has missed the last two games with a concussion he suffered in that fight with Scott last Thursday. Thornton skated on Thursday, and said afterwards that he's been cleared for practice and cleared for contact. He just doesn't know his status for Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the TD Garden.

One thing he was sure of, though, was fighting's place in the game. He agrees, it shouldn't be staged. But fighting belongs. It's his job. He would know. And he doesn't want anyone else to fight his battles. Not even if it means the captain -- Zdeno Chara -- sizes up much better with a guy like Scott.

"I don't even know where that bleep comes from," said Thornton on Thursday. "Chara's our best player and arguably the best defenseman in the league. There's no reason for him to have to fight my battles. I've done this for a long time, and it's on me.

"Listen, if I knocked Scott out, I wasn't expecting somebody to come grab me the next shift. It's part of it. We're both men. It happens."

One reporter tried to point out, that, while fighting might happen, it isn't a requirement.

"I beg to differ, in my role," said Thornton.

"It's part of the job," Thornton later added. "I wouldn't overreact."

He would know.

Penguins edge Sharks 3-2 in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final


Penguins edge Sharks 3-2 in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

PITTSBURGH - Nick Bonino's main job for the Pittsburgh Penguins is to get to the front of the net and create chaos. The well-bearded forward executed perfectly in his debut in the Stanley Cup Final.

Bonino took a pretty feed from the corner by Kris Letang and beat Martin Jones from in close with 2:33 remaining to lift the Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 on Monday night.

Rookies Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary staked Pittsburgh to an early two-goal lead before the Sharks tied it in the second period on goals by Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau. The Penguins responded by upping the pressure in the final period and it paid off with Bonino's fourth goal of the playoffs after he darted to the San Jose net in time to knuckle Letang's pass by Jones for the winner.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Matt Murray finished with 24 saves for Pittsburgh, which began its bid for the fourth title in franchise history by peppering Jones constantly in the first and final periods. Jones made 38 stops but couldn't get his blocker on Bonino's wrist shot. The Penguins threw 41 shots at Jones, well over the 28 he faced on average during San Jose's playoff run.

The Sharks made it to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history by rebuilding themselves on the fly. Two years removed from a brutal collapse from a 3-0 series lead in the first round against Los Angeles, San Jose ended a 9,005 day wait to play in the NHL's championship round by relying on a tough, aggressive style that squeezes opponents with a relentless forecheck while limiting chances in front of Jones.

Yet veterans Marleau and Joe Thornton - the top two picks in the 1997 draft held in Pittsburgh who had waited nearly two decades to make it to the league's biggest stage - insisted the Sharks were hardly satisfied after dispatching St. Louis in a cathartic Western Conference finals.

Maybe, but the Sharks looked a step slow - maybe two steps slow - while searching for their footing against the Penguins, who rallied from a 3-2 deficit to edge the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games to advance to their first Cup Final since 2009.

Rust, who surprisingly made the team out of training camp and became an unlikely playoff star by scoring both of Pittsburgh's goals in Game 7 against the Lightning, gave the Penguins the lead 12:46 into the first when he slammed home a rebound off a Justin Schultz shot for his sixth of the postseason, a franchise record for playoff goals by a rookie.

Less than a minute later Sheary, who didn't become a regular until the middle of January, made it 2-0 when Sidney Crosby whipped a blind backhand cross-ice pass to Sheary's stick. The rookie's wrist shot from the right circle zipped by Jones and the Penguins appeared to be in complete command by overwhelming the Sharks in a way few have in months.

San Jose and its group of Cup newcomers regained its composure in the intermission and responded with a big surge. Hertl jammed a shot from just outside the crease between Murray's legs on the power play 3:02 into the second to give the Sharks momentum. Late in the second, Marleau collected a rebound off a Brent Burns one-timer behind the Pittsburgh net and then beat Murray on a wraparound to the far post that caromed off Murray's extended right leg and into the net.