Thornton gets warm reception, closure in Boston

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Thornton gets warm reception, closure in Boston

BOSTON -- Joe Thornton might have finally gotten his closure with the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

The former No. 1 overall pick of the Bruins never wanted to leave Boston when he was dealt away to San Jose during the 2005-06 season, and he never got his chance to say goodbye to the team, the fans or the city.

Amid a hotly contested 4-2 win for the Sharks that included a trademark Thornton assist on Joe Pavelskis goal in the first period, the Bruins and TD Garden folks honored Jumbo Joe with a video presentation commemorating his 1,000th game played in the NHL on Friday night against the New Jersey Devils. The Bs played a series of video clips from Thorntons best moments with the Bruins to Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix, and the Garden crowd followed with a long, embracing ovation for the former franchise center.

Thornton was never able to win in Boston and he probably never should have been the Bs captain as a young player, but Jumbo Joe was always a happy-go-lucky skater that nobody could truly hold a grudge against.

Thornton gave a wave, a salute with his gloved hand and a thumbs up when the camera centered on him amid the applause, and voiced his appreciation for the welcoming applause after the win.

It was great. Obviously this is where it all started, Thornton said. They gave me my chance, and I love coming back to this city. Ive still got so many friends here and theyre still part of my life.

Jumbo Joe and the Sharks have now won each of the last three trips back to Boston over the last three years, but the 6-foot-4 playmaking pivot couldn't put his finger on why his team has had so much success against the Bruins.

It just seems every time we play here, theyre a real talented team that plays defense first. I think when youve got good defensive teams going toe-to-toe, it seems to be a good game, Thornton said. Theyve got some good offensive players as well. It just always seems to be one-goal games and pretty exciting games, too.

It was a fairly run-of-the-mill night for Thornton on the ice with the assist and zero shots on net in nearly 19 minutes of play. And while everything else might fade away, the ovation and that final moment of closure with the fans he grew up trying to please might just stick with Jumbo Joe for a while.

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Boston goalie Tuuka Rask has been hard to beat this season and was at his best against Buffalo again.

"You start thinking, `how are we going to get one by this guy,'" Sabres coach Dan Bylsma wondered aloud Saturday.

Rask nearly shut out the Sabres for the second time in a month, keeping them off the scoresheet for 2 1/2 periods and making 17 of his career-high 35 saves in the third to help the Bruins hold on for a 2-1 win.

"Every team likes to have these kind of goaltenders and a lot of teams do," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We're just fortunate enough that he's been one of those guys that, whenever you slip a little bit, or lose a little bit of momentum, or you're having a slow start, or a tough night, those guys step up and help you win some hockey games."

Over his last 11 starts, beginning with his 4-0 shutout over Buffalo on Nov. 7, Rask is 7-3-1 with a 1.36 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.

"I feel good," Rask said. "I'm seeing the puck well. Guys are doing a great job keeping them on the outside and clearing the rebounds for the most part, so that helps out."

David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead and the Bruins improved to 3-0-1 in their last four.

"We're getting better as a team, we're getting points and climbing up the standings," said Krejci, who has 10 points in his last 12 games. "Hopefully we can keep it up."

Evander Kane scored his first goal of the season for Buffalo. Robin Lehner returned after missing one game with a hip injury and made 32 saves.

The Sabres combined for nine goals in their previous two wins but the NHL's lowest-scoring team reverted to form from the first 21 games, when star center Jack Eichel was out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.

"First two periods, we had a tough time generating some offensive chances," Sabres defenseman Cody Franson said. "They kind of just stayed on top."

Krejci got the Bruins on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the first when he deflected Brandon Carlo's slap shot from the point off the right post and into the net.

The Sabres appeared to tie the game late in the second period but replays determined Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.

Bergeron made it 2-0 at 7:44 of the third when he knocked in the rebound of David Pastrnak's missed shot. Bergeron initially hit the puck with his forearm on the left edge of the crease and skated around the net to chase down the puck and flip a backhand past Lehner.

The Sabres answered two minutes later, scoring on Rask for the first time in 109:12 this season. Sam Reinhart's feed off the rear wall set up Kane for a wrist shot from the slot that bounced in off Krejci. Reinhart has five points in his last four games.

NOTES: Bruins F Matt Beleskey was escorted to the dressing room in the final minute of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Julien said Beleskey will be evaluated when the team returns to Boston. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges did not play after injuring his foot blocking a shot in Thursday's win over the New York Rangers. With Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) also out, the Sabres were down three of their top four defenseman and recalled 19-year-old Brendan Guhle from the minors to make his NHL debut. Guhle hustled back to thwart a breakaway by Krejci late in the third period. ... F Anton Blidh became the seventh Bruin to make his NHL debut this season after being recalled from the minors on Friday. ... The Bruins scratched F Jimmy Hayes. D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Buffalo had just three shots on goal in the first period.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Florida on Monday.

Sabres: At Washington on Monday.