Thornton's goal: 'No. 1 highlight in North America'

Thornton's goal: 'No. 1 highlight in North America'
January 29, 2014, 1:30 am
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BOSTON – You know that Milan Lucic has to be impressed when he says that a teammate’s goal will be “the No. 1 highlight in North America.”

That high praise was for fourth line enforcer Shawn Thornton’s third period goal that officially closed the door on the Florida Panthers in a 6-2 win at TD Garden, and also served as further notice that the right winger can do much more than drop the gloves.

The Panthers had closed the score to within a two goal game in the third period after a Dmitry Kulikov power play goal, and it was time for the Merlot Line to answer with authority.

“The highlight goal tonight came from a fourth-liner, so we’ve got to listen to this for the next week,” joked Claude Julien while setting the scene for Thornton.

The Bruins right wing hustled the puck into the offensive, momentarily lost possession of the puck in the corner, and then regained it in time to toe drag Brian Campbell before roofing a top shelf backhanded as he moved across the slot.

There couldn’t have been any greater example of Thornton’s legitimate hockey skills, or his disdain for dishing the puck as he shook off an open Daniel Paille while driving hard to the net.  

“It will definitely be the No. 1 highlight of the night around North America. I would say for right now, I would put it in the top three or four of goals of the month,” said a smiling Lucic. “It was awesome to see him do what he did there. I know everyone had a good chuckle because we love seeing him score, and get rewarded when he does.

“It almost seems like when he does score he gets the pretty ones. That one was probably his prettiest since he’s been here on the Bruins.”

It’s certainly the nicest one since the successful penalty shot against the Atlanta Thrashers three years ago where he gave the high leg kick before shooting the puck.

It was a thing of beauty and a joy forever, and the wide grin on Thornton’s face afterward told the entire story. It also gives Thornton a two-game point streak after his cross-ice pass connected with Reilly Smith in Monday night’s win over the Islanders, and gave him his first assist of the season in his 34th regular season game.

“I’m kind of just looking for where I can go with it, and hopefully it works out. Honestly, on that goal, Piesy [Daniel Paille] brought a lot of guys to him and created a lot of space for myself,” said Thornton. “Being on the back door I think – he was chirping me that I looked him off actually.”

After Thornton scored his fourth goal of the season against his teammate of five years, Tim Thomas, he also had to make a believer out of the Panthers goaltender after high-flying score.

“The next whistle, we had a shift down there and [Thomas] said 'are you kidding me?'” said Thornton. “He was actually laughing; he was as surprised as I was, I suppose.”

Don’t let Thornton’s words fool you: the B’s enforcer wasn’t surprised at all about the product of the hockey skills that he’s worked long and hard to protect in 15 years of pro hockey leading up to his No. 1 highlight moment.