Shawn Thornton 'definitely emotional' in his final game at TD Garden

Shawn Thornton 'definitely emotional' in his final game at TD Garden

BOSTON – The love between Shawn Thornton and the Boston Bruins has always been there. 

Even when the Florida Panthers signed him three years ago when it was clear the longtime NHL enforcer’s Boston career had come to a close, and even when Thornton showed up to subsequent B’s captain’s practices decked out head-to-toe in red Panthers gear, the genuine connection between the hard-nosed winger and the Black and Gold was never too distant. 

So there were emotions on sleeves on Saturday afternoon as the 39-year-old Thornton played his final game at TD Garden as a member of the Panthers in a 5-2 loss to the Bruins. Panthers head coach Tom Rowe put Thornton in the Florida starting lineup to the delight of the Garden crowd, and he was named the No. 3 Star of the game by the 98.5 the Sports Hub radio broadcast team. 

He was also greeted by some of his former Bruins teammates immediately after the game while taking one last Garden lap as the No. 3 Star, and that’s when it hit home emotionally for the two-time Stanley Cup champion. 

“[It was] definitely a little emotional. It didn’t really sink in until Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] came over and said he loved me and then it was very nice of [the media] for the third star, I appreciate that, you know? Getting that and people sticking around and applauding me when I came out,” said Thornton, who played in his 700th NHL game with Florida earlier this season as he moves toward NHL retirement at the end of this season. “That’s probably the closest I have been to getting choked up in a bit so, I mean, it’s emotional but I had a good run. No regrets, no complaints. I’m very happy with my career.”

It was pure class from his former teammates after the game as well with Zdeno Chara giving Thornton a big hug in the Florida dressing room following the game in the last little bit of closure. The former B’s enforcer has held onto his property in Charlestown so he won’t ever be that far from Boston, but he’s already lined up a job on the business/community relations side of the organization with the Panthers once this season concludes his NHL career. 

But a piece of his heart will always be in Boston no matter his future endeavors take him in the hockey world. 

From day one I think the fans here really embraced me and it felt like home right away. I think that there are not a lot of places that you go and you become that welcome,” said Thornton. “I tried to give back as much as I could to let them know that I appreciate it. It’s still home and I still have really fond memories here. It’s not easy saying it’s the last one in here, but I’m very happy with all the time I had in here.

“Cam [Neely] called me on that July 1 [when he signed with Boston] and there were a few other teams that were interested, and he kind of sold it. The players that are kind of molded like myself, they become fan favorites in this town, and it was above and beyond what I even expected. I had never really been in here before, I signed here 10 years ago and it was maybe the understatement of the year. People honestly were unbelievable to me, the way I’ve been treated and the support for the foundation. Everything has been amazing.”

Bruins clinch playoff berth in 2-1 OT loss to Blues

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Bruins clinch playoff berth in 2-1 OT loss to Blues

Jaden Schwartz scored his second goal of the game 30 seconds into overtime to give the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

Schwartz skated up the middle and fired a shot past Anton Khudobin. The Blues won for the fifth time in six games to move within a point of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.

Jake Allen made 21 saves to improve to 24-21-2.

Ryan Donato scored for Boston. The Bruins clinched a playoff spot and moved within four points of Tampa Bay for the Eastern lead.

Schwartz tied it midway through the third period with a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

Donato scored his second goal in his second NHL game. He had a goal and two assists in a 5-4 loss to Columbus on Monday night.

Donato, still a student at Harvard University, returned to Massachusetts on Tuesday to attend class before flying back to St. Louis to rejoin the Bruins. His father, Ted, played 528 games in two stints with the Bruins (1992-99, 2003-04).

Donato, who played for the U.S. Olympic team last month, drilled a shot past Allen. A clearing attempt by Alex Piertrangelo hit referee Brad Watson and the pick bounced right to Donato.

Boston, which has a game in hand on Tampa Bay, joined Nashville and Tampa Bay as only teams to have clinched playoff spots.


Boston was without seven key players:- C Patrice Bergeron (fractured left foot), D Charlie McAvoy (left knee), D Zdeno Chara (upper body), LW Jake DeBrusk (upper body), RW David Backes (right leg laceration), D Torey Krug (upper body) and LW Rick Nash (upper body). They have combined for 101 goals and 161 assists.

NOTES:- St. Louis RW Vladimir Tarasenko missed his second successive game after taking an elbow to the face against the New York Rangers on Saturday. ... The Bruins have least one point in 12 of their last 15 games against St. Louis. ... Only three Boston players - RW David Pastrnak, C Tim Schaller and C Sean Kuraly - have played in every game this season.


Bruins: At Dallas on Friday night in the second game of a four-game trip.

Blues: Host Vancouver on Friday night.

Krug steps up as Bruins stars go down

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Krug steps up as Bruins stars go down

The Bruins have managed to take three of a possible six points since Zdeno Chara went down in the third period of last week's comeback win over the Carolina Hurricanes, and they've done it completely without their top pairing since Charlie McAvoy has also been out all this time.

There are a number of factors behind the ability to withstand the injuries, of course, and the entire defense corps was stellar at both ends in the shutout win over Tampa Bay last weekend.


But it's Torey Krug who's really stepped up his game. He had three assists and 15 shots on net in those three games, and was immense in the win over the Lightning.

Krug has surpassed the 50-point plateau for the second straight season, a major accomplishment for a defenseman who prides himself on his puck-moving and power-play work.

"You know, he has [stepped up]," coach Bruce Cassidy said of Krug, adding: "Torey is always going to get his numbers, but he's really added to it 5-on-5 . . . [It] was comforting to see that [without Chara and McAvoy] we shut out one of the best teams [in the NHL], at home, that was rested. You've got to take something out of that. It was one of 82 [games], but that was a real positive for our guys."

For Krug, the challenge of stepping up and being a leader in the team's time of need is the kind of thing he takes pride in responding to with an elevated level of play.

"I'm in the business of winning hockey games and helping my team win," said Krug. "It falls on my shoulders to produce some offense from the back end. And [when] we're missing a couple of guys from the back end that do that push the pace, then you've got to step up and make some plays. When you play with a lot of great players then you'll get your points, and you just need to worry about the defensive zone first.

"We're confident in everybody in this room. A lot of people think that the guys on our back end can't get the job done, so for us to step up [is a good thing]."


The biggest sign of Krug's increased responsibility? He topped 26 minutes of ice time in two of the three games since Chara was injured. Only once before, when he was on the ice for 27-plus minutes against the Rangers in early November, has he played more than that.

The loss of Chara and McAvoy has forced Krug to go above and beyond his normal range of duties and he's stepped up and embraced it. That's what good players on good teams do, and it's something Krug has consistently done in the big moments since arriving in Boston five years ago.