It's very rare that a big event equals the hype leading up to it. Last night was one of those instances when the event failed miserably to even approach the pregame enthusiasm.
The return of former Bruins captain Joe Thornton to Boston in a San Jose Sharks uniform proved to be just a cameo appearance. And as for the Bruins' urgent need to gain points to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot, that failed even more miserably as they were blown out, 6-2, at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Very little about the game went as the Bruins planned, and certainly none of it went the way they hoped. They fell behind, 2-1, in the first period as the Sharks lost Thornton to a major penalty and game misconduct for checking Hal Gill from behind just 5:13 into the action. The Bruins lost Gill to a pinched nerve.
Thornton, who engaged in a battle for puck possession behind the Boston net in an earlier shift, pushed Gill head-first into the boards in the right corner and was whistled off immediately by referee Chris Rooney. Rooney said there was no other call he could make.
''From my view, where I'm standing on the ice, it's a direct hit from behind," said the Boston native, his comments coming via a pool reporter. ''The player that got hit is defenseless. Under the rule book, I really have no choice but to give five and a game misconduct."
Instead of the Bruins getting mad and wanting to get even, Thornton's exit ignited his current team, not his former one.
As well as the Bruins have been playing recently, particularly in their own zone, last night was a radical departure. They looked dreadful and disorganized as the Sharks won for the first time in Boston in 11 tries (1-7-3), the last NHL club to earn a victory here.
The loss ended the Bruins' win streak at two games, and they are 2-2 on this seven-game homestand.
''This was a big game for us at home," said veteran defenseman Brian Leetch, who said he had ''by far" his worst outing of the year. ''We talked about the standings beforehand and what 2 points would mean to us and where it puts us setting up this homestand. It was not an overall good effort."
San Jose tallied the first two goals, both by left wing Josh Langfeld, at 3:15 at even strength and at 13:12 while shorthanded.
The Bruins got one back on a power play at 14:39. Rookie defenseman Milan Jurcina, who had his first two NHL goals Saturday against Tampa Bay, picked up his third when he took a drop pass from left wing Marco Sturm after defenseman David Tanabe had gained the zone. Jurcina teed up a slapper from the right point that beat goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
As ugly as the first period was, the second was far worse as San Jose scored three straight power-play goals. Center Patrick Marleau, who moved up to the top line when Thornton was tossed, set up San Jose's third strike. With Jurcina off for delay of game, Marleau was positioned deep in the right circle. He saw defenseman Scott Hannan charging the back door and hit him with a perfect pass that Hannan converted past goalie Andrew Raycroft at 2:48.
The Sharks cashed in on another man advantage at 9:45, only 10 seconds after rookie defenseman Andrew Alberts was banished for boarding. This time it was Marleau taking a centering pass from left wing Nils Ekman and beating Raycroft from the slot. Another power-play tally followed that one, making it a 5-1 game and chasing Raycroft in favor of Tim Thomas, who was recalled from Providence yesterday after clearing waivers.
With Jurcina off for holding, it took only seven seconds for San Jose to make Boston pay. Ekman fed right wing Jonathan Cheechoo, who beat Raycroft from the left circle at 16:19.
Raycroft stopped 21 of the 26 shots he faced and had zero support.
In the third, the Sharks made it a five-goal bulge after only 19 seconds when Ekman beat Thomas after a backhand feed from Marleau.
Jurcina closed out the scoring with his second of the night and fourth in two games when he beat Nabokov with 1:56 remaining.
''That's two steps forward, three steps back there," said Raycroft. ''It's hard to figure out. We'd just won two in a row and played pretty well doing it. We have an effort like tonight, it's frustrating."