In a span of seven minutes and 12 seconds, the Bruins tough guy found himself sitting in the box on a phantom check to the head penalty, breaking in alone for a scoring chance coming out of the box, then converting a shorthanded penalty shot, followed by a bout against one of his closest friends and former teammates.
Not a bad night's work, though it did start off a bit rough. He got stripped of the puck early in the first by Winnipeg's Chris Thorburn, who earned the first penalty shot chance of the night after being hooked by Dennis Seidenberg on the ensuing breakaway. Tuukka Rask stopped that chance.
"That's my mistake," Thornton said. "I have to be better than that and I wasn't very happy with that. Tuukka bailed me out, that's what friends do I guess."
Rask also helped Thornton when it was his turn to take a penalty shot at 5:16 of the second. Thornton wouldn't be denied, scoring on a filthy backhand move he perfected in practice against the Bruins netminder.
"Yeah you can talk to Tuukks [Rask]," Thornton said. "You guys probably won't believe it, but I practice that move a bunch. We do a lot of shootouts at the end of practice. It used to work until Tuukka knew that move. After they called it I looked at Tuukka and he was shaking his head yes to try it, so why not."
Thornton's teammates were certainly happy to see him try the move.
"I don't know what to say," center David Krejci said. "It was a pretty sick move. I've seen him do it before so I knew he had that. I didn't know he was going to pull that off. He got some balls and he scored a goal that was a really big goal. All the players on the bench were very excited and happy for him."
Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg knows he wouldn't have attempted to do it.
"It was huge," Seidenberg said. "He had a fight. He had a penalty shot — backhand-toe drag. I don't know how many guys can do that. I would end up it in the corner if I tried that. But it was a good play and he gave us a lot of energy."
Thornton had the guts to try, but did admit to being a bit nervous, despite a little previous experience.
"I haven't taken a penalty shot in front of people since the Max Milk Midget Tournament. I won that shootout competition by the way. I have the belt buckle to prove it," Thornton boasted proudly.
Beating an NHL goalie like Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec is a little different though.
"I've never had a penalty shot — AHL, NHL. My first time. I was real nervous, not going to lie to you," Thornton said. "Any time you're out there in front of that many people and it's just you — I mean I guess I do all the time when I fight, but I'm a little bit nervous with my hands scoring goals than I am the other stuff."
Thornton was more comfortable later in the period when he resumed his more customary activity by dropping the gloves with Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart. That's the same Mark Stuart who spent the bulk of his career with the Bruins, forming a tight friendship with Thornton in their years together in Boston. But friendships get cast aside quickly on the ice, and are patched up just as quickly off it.
"He cleared me out in front of the net there after the whistle and I took exception to it," Thornton said. "He's a good friend of mine. He's a character guy. He's a guy that I was sad to see leave here, but at the same time he knew I'd be pushing back and he's the type of guy who will stand up for himself. I just wasn't going to let him take liberties on me and I figured I'd push back and we went. It's as simple as that. I'll still buy him a beer after the game if I see him. There's no hard feelings. All business."
Fighting a former teammate is nothing new for Thornton. Of his 10 fights this season, six have come against former teammates, as he's battled ex-Chicago mates Travis Moen and Jim Vandermeer, former AHL teammates Krys Barch (twice) and Zenon Konopka and now Stuart.
"It's the fifth or sixth time it's happened this year," Thornton said. "I think when you've been around this long you've played with a lot of guys so it's bound to happen every now and again."
Thornton was asked if he has any friends left. "Probably not. I shouldn't have bought [Stuart] lunch the other day. He thought he was getting a pass."
Thornton didn't get a free pass earlier in the period when he was sent to the box the first time for an illegal check to the head despite not making contact with Thorburn's head.
"I didn't, at all," Thornton said. "Honestly, when [referee Greg Kimmerly] put his arm up I didn't know what the call was. But he admitted he had messed up the call, he apologized. From the angle he was at, he said he thought I made contact with his head. Mistakes happen. Obviously, I wasn't happy with it, but he admitted it and he's a veteran ref, so you give him the benefit of the doubt most of the time."
It worked out for Thornton, who had a breakaway right out of the box, which in turn led to his memorable penalty shot.
"That was pretty awesome," Bruins forward Nathan Horton said. "Actually, because I've seen it in practice, I said to do it. I didn't even think he was going to do it. It was pretty amazing. It's an unbelievable move, that's for sure.
"He's got more skill than a lot of guys," Horton added. "He's pretty good with the puck, and obviously you've seen the penalty shot, not too many guys can do that."
Not in the same period as phantom penalty and a fighting major anyway.
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