Thornton creates a sudden impact
Last night, Shawn Thornton proved how a fourth-line right wing — one who had been a healthy scratch for seven straight games — can turn a game upside down.
Before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, Thornton was told he would be in suit and tie. Patrice Bergeron was ready to return following a concussion. The game before, Tyler Seguin had exploded for two goals and two assists in the second period. Thornton was the odd man out.
That was until last night, when Thornton came in and Seguin went to the press box.
Thornton skated only nine shifts, more than only Nathan Horton and Aaron Rome. But no player delivered more value in his limited ice time.
In 5:50 of work, Thornton landed two shots on goal. He threw two hits. He was credited with one takeaway.
By driving to the net in the second period, Thornton drew a hooking penalty on Jeff Tambellini. On the following power play, the Bruins cracked a 0-0 tie when Andrew Ference beat Roberto Luongo.
The TD Garden faithful let Thornton know how much he had been missed.
“The fans have always been awesome to me here,’’ Thornton said. “That’s no secret. Very happy and very fortunate that the support was there. It was good to be back out there.’’
It took, however, some dynamite work by Vancouver’s fourth line for Thornton to earn his look. In Game 2, Alain Vigneault got some serious bang — literally — for his buck with his fourth line.
Manny Malhotra, playing in his first game since suffering a season-threatening left eye injury, won six of seven faceoffs in 7:26 of ice time. Wingmen Tambellini (5:50) and Victor Oreskovich (6:20) each landed four smacks. It was the near-perfect game from the Canucks’ fourth line.
“I think our fourth line got between six and eight minutes,’’ Vigneault said. “Which, depending on the opposition, is not a bad number. That permits our top guys to play anywhere from 18 to 20 minutes and have good energy.’’
Conversely, Boston’s fourth line had zero identity in the first two games.
Bruins’ coach Claude Julien had used Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell primarily as penalty-killers instead of even-strength skaters. Because they hadn’t gained much traction in five-on-five situations, the fourth line had turned into a spare-part unit instead of a cohesive, crash-and-bang threesome like it once was.
Last night, when Thornton came in, it wasn’t just one player coming in. With his addition, the fourth line came alive.
Paille had one goal and one assist in 14:59 of work. Paille recorded three shots, five hits, and two takeaways.
Campbell had one shot, four hits, and two blocked shots in 15:41 of ice time.
“We read off each other very well,’’ Paille said. “I know what Shawn’s going to do most of the time. Vice versa. Same with Greg. It’s nice to get our identity and reinforce how we need to play.’’
Waiting in the wings Seguin blew up for two goals and two assists in the second period of Game 2 against Tampa Bay, but hasn’t scored a point since. In the 3-2 overtime loss in Game 2 of the Cup Final, Seguin submitted zeros across the scoresheet in 8:46 of ice time.
However, Seguin would be back in for Game 4 if Horton is unavailable. Julien didn’t know how much time Horton would miss.
“We lost a pretty good player,’’ Julien said. “We’ll have to move some players around. Right now, I haven’t really made my roster up for the next game. I can’t give you that answer right now. But we’ll find solutions. We always do. We’ll try and get the best fit for that line by next game.’’
Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley skated shifts in Horton’s spot after his injury.
Birthday, anniversary Bruins president Cam Neely celebrated his 46th birthday yesterday.
It also marked the 25th anniversary of the trade that brought Neely to Boston from Vancouver. On June 6, 1986, the Bruins traded Barry Pederson to Vancouver for Neely and a 1987 first-round pick used to select Glen Wesley.
Draft prep The Bruins kicked off their three-day amateur meetings yesterday. Tough time to perform prep work on the draft, but the first round takes place two weeks from Friday in St. Paul. The Bruins have the No. 9 pick, courtesy of the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto . . . Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Dougie Hamilton, four of the top-rated players in the draft, made the rounds of the Garden and each dressing room yesterday morning. Nugent-Hopkins is expected to be the first overall pick. “When you’re doing it, it feels like the longest process of your life, but it’s a lot of fun,’’ said Seguin, who paid a similar visit to Philadelphia last year during the Flyers-Blackhawks Cup Final. “If there’s one message anyone could tell them, I’d probably tell them to have fun.’’ . . . Entering last night, the Bruins had held a lead in the series for 18:02. The Canucks led for 17:07 . . . Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was named one of the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award. Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Phoenix’s Shane Doan are the other candidates . . . According to Bruins director of communications Matt Chmura, the NHL did not allow the team to hold viewing parties at TD Garden for Games 1 and 2 because of TV rights issues. The Canucks opened Rogers Arena last night (and will do so again tomorrow) for fans to watch the game . . . Campbell was 0 for 9 on the draw . . . The Green Men, the pair of spandex-suited Canucks fans who sit next to the visiting penalty box at Rogers Arena, attended last night’s game. Andrew Ference was curious how they’d be welcomed by the hostile crowd. “I hope they make it,’’ he cracked.