Thornton relishes this milestone marker

By Barbara Matson
Globe Correspondent / April 7, 2011

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Shawn Thornton is not a numbers guy. He doesn’t watch the clock, he doesn’t really know for sure where his team is in the standings, and it’s easy enough to keep track of his points.

But the third-year Bruin wing needs a little more room on the scoresheet after he moved into double digits for the first time in his NHL career last night, scoring his 10th goal of the season as the Bruins beat the Islanders, 3-2, at TD Garden.

“That’s not a milestone for most guys but for myself, it’s a big one, so I’ll take it,’’ said Thornton, whose previous season high was the six he scored for the Bruins two seasons ago.

After the team’s flatfooted loss to the Rangers Monday, it was Thornton and his fourth-line teammates, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille, who brought the iron to the lineup last night; while most of the Bruins played another soft game, the fourth liners skated as if every step meant something. Campbell scored the winner in the second period, and Paille, twice denied on quick one-timers by Islander goalie Rick DiPietro, ended the game sprawled on the blue line, curled around the puck, after a dramatic block of a last-minute Islander shot.

“Just the commitment from those guys, that’s probably one of the positive things that came out of tonight,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “If you can get that kind of effort and production from that fourth line, imagine if the other lines are going how good we can be.’’

Before the game, Thornton received the Eddie Shore Award, an annual honor chosen by the “Galley Gods’’ for “exceptional hustle and determination.’’

That was sweet. But the goal he picked up was sweeter still. The 33-year-old Thornton is playing his 15th year of professional hockey, including nine years where he spent most of his time in the American Hockey League, until his 2006-07 call-up to Anaheim (from Portland) landed him in the NHL for good.

“Six hundred whatever games is a long time to play down there,’’ he said. “It can wear on you. I’m very fortunate that a team gave me a break and it’s been awesome ever since.

“Ten’s a big number. I always thought I had the potential to get there and I’m very happy to prove it.’’

Thornton, playing his first game after missing three with a 40-plus-stitch gash in his forehead, was the picture of persistence as he bulldozed his way to the goal, scoring at 19:59 of the first period to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

Dennis Seidenberg sent the puck down low from the left point, and Thornton and his determined linemates went to work, ignoring the clock, which showed only a few seconds remaining in the period.

On a pass from Campbell, Thornton got a poke at the puck, DiPietro blocked that, and Paille stabbed at the rebound.

Thornton never quit on the play and he was in position to sweep the next rebound past DiPietro’s outstretched glove into the net.

“[Paille] and [Campbell] were all over the puck on that goal,’’ said Thornton. “Just a lot of hard work from those guys and the puck ended up popping out to me at the back door. It wasn’t that tough. [Paille] made a great play there.’’

Campbell and Thornton have played together all season, first with Brad Marchand, sometimes with Tyler Seguin or Michael Ryder, most recently with Paille.

“The guys that I have played with this year have made my job a lot easier,’’ said Thornton, who said he appreciated the Eddie Shore Award, but added he would have voted for his centerman, Campbell.

“Well, we just try to keep it simple and provide energy for the team,’’ said Campbell. “Our job is not very complicated. We have to work hard, we have to be first on every puck and create chances, and be strong defensively. I felt there was a little chemistry with us tonight.’’

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