BOSTON – The Bruins didn’t have many bright spots in their second loss in a row out of the Olympic break, but the Merlot Line stood head and shoulders above the rest of the roster.
Shawn Thornton’s fifth goal of the season narrowed it to a one-goal lead for Washington in the second period, but that’s as close as the B’s would get in an eventual 4-2 loss at TD Garden. Combine the secondary offense provided by the fourth line with a clearly higher level of energy expended, and they were one of the few pluses in a minus game.
“They were good tonight. I thought they played their better game tonight,” said Claude Julien. “They seemed to be more in sync and play with lots of energy. They were a good line for us tonight.”
It first appeared the goal might have been awarded to Gregory Campbell as Thornton centered a pass to the crashing fourth-line center and the puck deflected off both Campbell and defenseman Mike Green before landing past Braden Holtby. The goal was eventually credited to the B’s enforcer after a video review showed the puck deflecting off Green on its way to the net.
Either way it was one of six shots on net for the B’s fourth line in an active game for them and Thornton, Campbell and Daniel Paille were the only Boston forwards with a positive plus/minus in defeat.
“We had talked before the game. We weren’t happy with where we were last game [against Buffalo]. I think that we looked at some video. We chatted about what we could do to make ourselves a little bit more effective,” said Thornton. “We tried to work on those tonight, and for most of our shifts I thought we did a pretty good job.
“The goal was a little lucky, but those guys were driving the net hard. I think we did a better job of reading off of each other and supporting each other.”
Now, it’s just a matter of the vast majority of the Bruins roster bottling some of what the fourth line brought on Saturday afternoon, and rolling that out Sunday night vs. the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Olympic break excuse was passable in the first game against Buffalo, and perhaps still palatable Saturday afternoon against the Capitals.
But there’s no excuse for a lack of energy or a sleepy start three games back from the 2 1/2 week interruption to the regular season.