The Bruins had slogged through an ugly second period, giving up a shorthanded goal, landing only seven shots on net. They had barely seen anything resembling a solid chance when Shawn Thornton wrapped himself around the net and sent home the team’s third goal.
The score was the byproduct of hard work, with Thornton knocking in his own rebound to give his club some breathing room in a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers Thursday night at TD Garden.
“I’ll take ’em any way I can get ’em,” Thornton said. “I think our line has been playing pretty hard. Got rewarded tonight. Some nights we don’t, but tonight we did.”
On the play, Thornton had been attempting to pass the puck after determining he didn’t have a good shooting angle. As he said, “I was hoping it would bang off something in or to one of my [linemates].”
It did bang off something — a skate and into the crease. That’s where Thornton was able to push it over the line for his third goal of the season (and second this week), at 12:43 of the third period, with the assists to fourth-line mates Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell.
“I think that that line has been pretty good lately,” coach Claude Julien said. “They’re giving us some good games. They’re scoring some timely goals.
“Again, they’re a line that deserves a lot of credit lately. When your team goes through those kind of stages, sometimes it’s important that lines like that pick up the slack, and that’s what they’re doing right now.”
When the offense seemed to be sagging, with bad giveaways and little energy, it was the fourth line that provided what the team needed. And not just the goal.
“I think they reminded me about when we had the Cup run,” said goalie Tuukka Rask, who acknowledged the Bruins’ “heads were not in it” on Thursday night.
“They bring energy, and when they get a chance to go out there they really take it upon themselves to take the puck deep and go to work. It’s good to see it pay off in the end.”
Goals, of course, are not the way to judge that fourth line. It’s more about physicality and time in the offensive zone, Thornton said.
But the energy is crucial, and it was especially crucial on a night with a lackluster effort from just about everyone else.
It’s something the line has been providing a lot of lately, with the group getting praise from Julien earlier in the week, as well.
“I think every night we have to bring that, the other parts of the game we can’t really control,” Thornton said. “But when we’re out there, we have to do whatever we can to try to create some energy and some offensive zone time. I thought the three of us did an OK job of that tonight.”
For his part, Thornton passed the praise to Paille, calling him “unbelievable.”
“He told me after the first that he had his legs and I thought a lot of times I got pucks quick up, it was mostly to him and he was going with it,” Thornton said.
But it was Thornton who sneaked the puck home, giving the Bruins that two-goal lead. It was after that score that the team pushed its play from unimpressive to solid, from primed for an upset to 2 more points in the standings.
And for that, they can thank the fourth line.
“The way the players on our line think, we’re very straightforward,” Thornton said. “We have to play a certain way. We’re not creative, really. Listen, you don’t want everyone playing like us. We get a combined 30 goals a year if we’re lucky.
“We’re going to do what we’re going to do when we’re out there. But everyone has their role, and I think everyone’s been doing it pretty well this year.”