Thornton does it all in Bruins' win over Jets

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Thornton does it all in Bruins' win over Jets

BOSTON -- Shawn Thornton is coming off a pretty extreme week.

The Bs enforcer was the focus of discussion when anentire on-ice contingent of Vancouver Canucks -- plus a couple of ranch hands from the bench --infamously attacked him in front of Vancouver'sbench Saturday afternoon. That sequence of events led to the Canucks enjoying an inexplicable 5-on-3 advantage, on which they scored the games first goal, and infuriated the fiery Thornton.

Hewas running just as hotlater in the periodwhen Vancouver tough guy Dale Weise slinked away from Thornton after agreeing to drop the gloves for a mano-a-mano encounter.

Thornton never truly got his frustrations out against the Canucks that day. So instead the Bs energy-line forward took seethinganger and considerablerancor out on the unwitting Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night in a whirlwind second period of activity that helped lead to a 5-3 win.When it was all said and done Thornton scored on a silky smooth penalty shot goal, bludgeoned a former B's teammate in an old-fashioned donnybrook and humbled a Vancouver columnist that called him "unethical" in a postgame TV appearance on Comcast SportsNet New England. That's what you call the "Shawn Thornton Hat Trick."It started on a down note with another questionable call for illegal contact to the headto Chris Thorburn minutes into the second period. Replays showed no contact between Thorntons shoulder and the Jets forwards head, but the B's enforcer went to the box for two minutes.It was too late once the hand was raised and the whistle was blown, but the nearest official admitted shortly afterward that it was -- in fact -- a botched call against Thornton and the Bruins.

The ref admitted he had messed up the call, he apologized, said Thornton. From the angle he was at, he said he thought I made contact with his head. Mistakes happen. Obviously I wasnt happy with it, but he admitted it and hes a veteran ref, so you give him the benefit of the doubt most of the time.

But karma and Thorntons burning anger allowed for things to turn around immediately after that. A fortunate puck bounce allowed Thornton to break free into the offensive zone for a partial shorthanded breakaway immediatley upon exiting the box, and a penalty shot was called when Thornton was prevented fromsqueezingoff a sufficient scoring bid.

Thats when the real magic showed up.

Thornton admitted he was a little nervous moving infor his first career penalty shot as a professional. Hed never even been chosen for a shootout over the course of his NHL career.

So what did Thornton do?

He went to the one shootout move that Tuukka Rask knows from their shootout drills in practice.

You guys probably wont believe it, but I practice that move a bunch we do a lot of shootouts at the end of practice, said Thornton. It used to work until Tuukka knew it by heart. After they called the penalty shot I looked at Tuukka and he was shaking his head yes to try it, so why not?

He went forehand to backhand before roofing a shot under the bar, and tied the game at 2-2. He even gave the traditional Ray Bourque double fist pump following the sweet toe drag, infusing the Bruins -- and fans -- with energy that had been missing.

He made a great move, scored a nice goal, did a great job, again, tonight, standing up for himself and his team, said coach Claude Julien. He deserves a lot of credit for the way he played tonight.

We were a team that didnt show as much emotion in the first two periods, and he was capable of doing his job and doing it properly. He certainly is one of those guys that I thought had a good outing tonight.

Thornton kept it up in the second period when he laterfought one of his best friends in hockey, Mark Stuart, five minutes later. The former carpool buddies and Charlestown homeboys were among the closest of friends during theirtime together in Boston, and Thornton was genuinely upset when Stuartwas traded to Atlanta last season.

But that didnt stop the Bs tough guy from rocking Stuart with a series of uppercuts and overhand rights in a unanimous decision after Stuart had thrown him off balance during a scrum in front of the net. It was the fourth time this season that Thornton has fought a former teammate, good friend or road roommate, and its all business as usual during each and every bout.

He cleared me out in front of the net there after the whistle and I took exception to it, said Thornton. Hes a good friend of mine hes a character guy. Hes a guy that I was sad to see leave Boston, but at the same time he knew Id be pushing back. Hes the type of guy who will stand up for himself.

I just wasnt going to let him take liberties on me and I figured Id push back and we went, its as simple as that. Ill still buy him a beer after the game if I see him no hard feelings.

It was another evening that wouldnt have ended in victory if the Bruins didnt have the criminally underratedThornton. Hes one of the most dangerous fourth-line enforcers in the game when it comes to both kicking in offense and forcing the other teams to play an honest game.

He did a little bit of both in a wild middle 20 minutes en route to yet another victory for the Black and Gold over the last three months. Maybe hell even get into Claude Juliens shootout rotation going forward.

I was lobbying before about the shootout, said Thornton. Im pretty sure Tuukka will still be ahead of me.

It looks like the NHL enforcer with the decent pair of mitts is still looking for a little respect even after his golden penalty shot maneuver that helped the B's to victory.

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

CLEVELAND --  Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
 
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.

GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99

 

The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
 
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
 
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
 
Defensively?
 
Absolutely.
 
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
 
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
 
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
 
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
 
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
 
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
 
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
 
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
 
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
 
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
 
That’s not Avery Bradley.
 
That’s not Al Horford.
 
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
 
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
 
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
 
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
 
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
 
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
 
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
 
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
 
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
 
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
 
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
 
Because that look is so not about winning.