BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Joe Thornton's swollen, half-closed right eye still
looks terrible. But his play certainly doesn't.
The Boston Bruins' captain, wearing a cage to protect his broken cheekbone,
capped a great individual effort to spark a three-goal second period that led
the Bruins to a 6-2 victory Thursday night over the Buffalo Sabres.
Thornton added an assist _ the 400th point of his career _ on Mike Knuble's
goal and helped the Bruins to win their fifth straight. Thornton also extended
his points streak to three games, a stretch in which he's registered three
goals and five assists.
Par for the course, said Thornton, who played in his sixth game after
missing only three because of the injury.
``I can see fine,'' Thornton said. ``It was just kind of unfortunate that I
got hurt, but we just picked up where we left off.''
Thornton's teammates expected no less from their leader.
``He's not going to have his confidence rattled because of an injury, Knuble
said. ``It's just a bump in the road for him.''
There have been few bumps in the road this season for the Bruins, who
improved to 13-3-2-0 in their last 18 games and inched to within a point of
Northeast Division-leading Toronto.
P.J. Axelsson had a goal and two assists, while Martin Lapointe, Glen Murray
and Nick Boynton also scored for Boston, which matched its best offensive
performance of the season _ a 6-4 win over Atlanta on Dec. 3.
Andy Delmore and Chris Drury scored for the Sabres, who came in with a
season-high four-game winning streak. Buffalo also lost for only the second
time at home _ both against Boston _ in its last 11 games (7-2-2).
The Sabres came out flat and sloppy. The six goals against snapped a
six-game streak in which the team allowed two or less, and were the most since
a 7-2 loss to Detroit on Dec. 10.
``Not too many guys showed up for us tonight,'' said Daniel Briere, the
Sabres' newly appointed captain of the month. ``I get to be captain for a day
and we answer like that. I have nothing else to say.''
After Delmore and Knuble traded first-period goals, Thornton put the Bruins
ahead for good 1:25 into the second period.
Pouncing on a Sabres turnover at the Boston blue line, Thornton carried the
puck alone up the right wing. Entering the Buffalo zone, Thornton made a nifty
move to the middle to elude Henrik Tallinder's check, and snapped a shot across
his body that beat Martin Biron on the glove side.
``Obviously, we're a different hockey team when he's in the lineup,'' coach
Mike Sullivan said of Thornton. ``He's a huge part of this team and I think Joe
has really stepped up in elevating his level of play.''
The Bruins eventually built a 5-1 lead when Murray scored six minutes into
the third period. The goal extended Murray's points streak to eight games, in
which he has 10 goals and two assists.
Except for Drury's third-period goal, Bruins goaltender Andrew Raycroft had
a strong game, stopping 26 shots. He made a spectacular diving save across the
crease to foil Miroslav Satan's bouncer to preserve a 3-1 lead late in the