The Bruins tough guy wasn't complaining, though. He was just happy to have a chance to help his team once again. And help he did.
"He played great tonight," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said of Thornton. "He played his role to a T. He was very talkative on the bench and in the room, and when he was out there he was flying around. He did his job. It's always nice to have Thorty out there. He's a big part of our team."
Thornton gave the Bruins a much-needed boost of energy and enthusiasm. He also provided some welcomed physical play, as an already chippy series turned even nastier in a game with 71 hits, 125 penalty minutes, seven misconducts, three major penalties and two game misconducts.
Thornton accounted for 12 of those penalty minutes and one of the misconducts, ending his night at 7:58 of the third despite his protestations that he didn't deserve all that penalty time.
When a reporter offered that it didn't appear he had done much to warrant such punishment, Thornton replied: "I'm glad you said it. I thought [Canucks forward Ryan] Kesler stepped on Timmy's [Thomas] leg. I went over to address it, and I guess I got a penalty for talking."
Thornton did more than talk, though.
In just nine shifts lasting 5:50, he had two shots, two hits and a takeaway. He also drew a hooking call on Jeff Tambellini early in the second period with a hustle play driving to the net, and the Bruins cashed in with a Mark Recchi goal on the ensuing power play.
"I thought I was going to get a penalty shot, I was kind of hoping I could use my moves," Thornton said. "Piesy [Daniel Paille] made an unbelievable pass to me. I just tried to get the shot off. But the power play stepped up and gave us a lead, and it was nice to see us capitalize. Any time you can contribute you're happy, so I was happy I could give a little bit tonight."
The Bruins were happy to have him back, and the Garden fans even more ecstatic. When Thornton hopped over the boards for his first shift early in the first period, he was greeted by a huge ovation from the crowd.
"The fans have always been awesome to me here, that's no secret," Thornton said. "I'm very happy, very fortunate the support was there. It was good to be back out there too, obviously."
The rest of the Bruins got a kick out of seeing the love Thornton was getting from the fans.
"I was dying on the bench," Marchand said. "Obviously they love him. He's a warrior. He battles. I think he has the toughest job in hockey. What he does is a very respectable thing and the fans love it."
Of course, Thornton didn't need a lot of help to get up for this game. Before the fans were even finished clapping, he laid out Alexandre Burrows with a hit seconds into his first shift, and he never stopped hustling until his early departure in the third.
"I haven't played in a week and a half, I was fairly excited to get into this one," Thornton said. "I usually have 5-6 coffees [before a game]. It didn't take that much to get me going tonight. I was pretty excited and I was fortunate enough to get a hit on my first shift, and that got me into the game right away."
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