– It has been tough to get the Bruins to say they have played a full 60 minute effort this season, and Thursday night was no different. The Black & Gold jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first period on goals by Zdeno Chara
and Patrice Bergeron
, but struggled to create energy in the second.
The Panthers came out hard and were able to cut the B’s lead in half just 3:10 into the middle period, when Shawn Matthias got past Dougie Hamilton and scored shorthanded, the first of its kind allowed by the B's this season. The air seemed to be coming out of TD Garden and, on whole, the Bruins managed only seven shots in the period.
The first 10 minutes of the third was much of the same, and after some recent games in which the B’s have surrendered third period leads, they were in need of a spark. At 12:48, the Merlot Line delivered.
They had been providing a jump all game long, but on this particular shift the line made it count with an insurance goal from Shawn Thornton to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead – and some welcome breathing room. Bergeron would add an empty-netter to secure the victory.
Thornton, who registered a season-high four shots on goal, fired a bad angle pass out front that bounced off of a Panthers’ defenseman and started to trickle back towards the crease. No. 22 circled the net and tapped the puck in for his third goal of the season. Campbell and Paille got the assists.
“My linemates did a good job of getting the puck in. Piesy [Daniel Paille] was skating, he made a good draw pass to me, I was going to shoot but I looked up and there was someone in the lane and then the goalie was kind of challenging, so I tried to hang on to it, throw it on the ice, hopefully bang it off something or to one of my lineys,” Thornton explained.
“But, it ended up banging off something and back to the crease and I just happened to be by myself. So whatever, I’ll take them any way that I can get them.”
The goal, and shift as a whole, was a perfect example of what the B’s energy line is all about: providing that little bit of life when the Bruins need it the most.
“I think every night we have to bring that, the other parts of the game we can’t really control but when we’re out there we have to do whatever we can to create some energy and offensive zone time,” said Thornton, who felt that the B’s energy was lacking against the Panthers for most of the night.
“I thought the three of us did an okay job at that tonight, whoever D were on the ice with us did a good job of getting pucks back in for us too.”
Captain Zee was happy to see the B's lines centered by Gregory Campbell and Rich Peverley upping their compete level, especially with Chris Kelly sidelined.
"Our third and fourth lines right now are creating a lot of energy and a lot of jump for us," said Chara. "It’s nice that they’re getting rewarded, too, so it’s good when you have all four lines going."
B’s Head Coach Claude Julien has praised the play of the Merlot Line over the past few games and said tonight, once again, the trio of Thornton, Paille, and Campbell did their job.
“I think that that line has been pretty good lately,” said Julien, who with the win surpassed Milt Schmidt for second place on the Bruins’ all-time wins list. “They’re giving us some good games, they’re scoring some timely goals. Again, they’re a line that deserves a lot of credit lately. When your team goes through those kind of stages sometimes, it’s important for lines like that to pick up the slack and that’s what they’re doing right now.”
Julien agreed when it was suggested that the third period was a “grind.”
“Well, we had to do that in the third because that 2-1 lead certainly wasn’t a comfortable one,” Julien said. “We didn’t give them time in the third period, and that goal by Thornton certainly gave us some breathing room, and from there we just kind of played a solid game.
“Again we didn’t want to give them much as far as scoring was concerned and we grinded it out.
“From start to finish it wasn’t pretty, but you know you grind out those wins.”