Judging by the exuberant fist pump after he scored Bostons first goal, Shawn Thornton probably knew exactly how many games it had been.
The Bs enforcer snapped a 35-game goal-scoring drought when he shoveled home the rebound of a Zdeno Chara rush to the net, and helped his Bruins to a solid 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lighting at TD Garden. The first two periods of play featured some of the best shifts that the Bs fourth line has had in recent memory, and Thorntons strike was the culmination of all that.
Thornton credited much of it to Claude Julien going a little light with the shifts for the Bs energy line during the road games in Los Angeles and Anaheim, and it gave them the extra go while the other Bs lines got their bearings. The fourth line also takes on a different personality with Jordan Caron playing in place of the scratched Daniel Paille: the forward group becomes stronger around the net and on the boards with plenty of battles on tap all over the ice.
We had good legs tonight. We felt good. I think my two linemates played pretty well, strong on pucks, said Thornton. We got some opportunities, probably should have been rewarded a little bit more than that one goal. But were happy to chip in.
Thornton had five shots on net when the game was over, but the Bs tough guy could have easily had his first career hat trick with a little luck and a better breakaway bid. Thornton broke up a defenseman-to-defenseman feed telegraphed near the blue line, and broke in all alone on Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson.
Instead of going forehand-to-backhand like he memorably did in a win over the Winnipeg Jets earlier this season and what was actually the last goal he scored prior to Tuesday night he attempted to fling a forehand shot high over Rolosons glove hand. Instead the goaltender knocked it away and then gobbled up a Thornton rebound bid off an initial shot from Gregory Campbell.
Ive known Thorty for a while. Hes a great person on and off the ice, said Roloson. I was just trying to take well, he had some pressure from behind so I figured he was going to shoot it so I was just trying to take away his options.
Roloson was victorious on that particular battle, but Thornton and the fourth line won the war on a night when all of Bostons diverse offensive weapons proved ready to strike. In so many ways the Bs fourth line is a barometer for their overall success, and a productive stretch from Thornton and Co. is exactly what is needed with the playoffs around the corner.