BOSTON – Shawn Thornton knew he wasn’t going to play much with the Bruins facing a two goal deficit in the third period, but he wanted to provide some energy to his B’s teammates. The fourth line right wing did exactly that when he briefly exited the ice with an apparent right leg injury after Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban ducked his check, but then returned to encouraging his battling teammates on the bench.
Subban apologized to Thornton later in a move that’s considered less than courageous in most hockey circles, with the B’s enforcer even referencing Brad Marchand’s low bridge on Sami Salo during the 2011-12 regular season.
“I don’t like people ducking. I think Marchy [Brad Marchand] got about five games for it once. I will say, off the draw he apologized afterwards, so there’s that,” said Thornton. “I think it’s a dangerous play, personally. But it’s the playoffs, it’s hockey, I’m fine, so we’re okay.”
Thornton played exactly 1:02 of ice time in the third period, but his presence was absolutely felt in Boston’s 5-3 win when he kept everyone up by reminding them “they just needed a goal every five minutes” while down by a 3-1 score. The fourth line winger downplayed his role in the comeback after the game was over, but
“I’m not psychic. It’s a pretty standard statement depending on the time and the score. I think I said two goals, but we’re a resilient crew here,” said Thornton. “We have been all year, so I knew the character would be there. I was just hoping the pucks would go in.
“I think we just came in and kind of regrouped between periods there. Went back out with the mindset that we’ll do everything…we can to not be denied. I think that was more of it than anything.”
Thornton joked that he didn’t think “anybody even noticed” when he returned to the bench in the third period minutes after limping to the dressing room, but that’s not the case at all. There’s always a noticeable difference in feel along the B’s bench when Thornton is or isn’t a presence during the games, and the rest of the team derives so much of their attitude from their fearless fighter.
It wasn’t a coincidence the Bruins played with a whole different level of swagger when Thornton returned to the lineup in 2011 during the Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver, and once again the Bruins got an extra jump in their step when they spotted No. 22 returning to add his voice to the rest of the team screaming for a comeback.