Fans, team show support for Thornton

BOSTON -- As he usually does, Boston Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton set the tone for the Bruins 4-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday night when he went toe-to-toe with Thrashers enforcer Eric Boulton two seconds into the game. The Bruins were in need of a spark, and Thornton knew he had a job to do.

But for Thornton, who surprisingly entered the game with five goals, one shy of his career high, that job wasn’t done, as the Bruins’ new secret scoring weapon netted a pair of goals to pace his team to the win.

After his second goal -- which came 4:54 into the third period to make it 4-1 Bruins -- the sellout crowd at TD Garden began chanting “We want Thornton,” trying to push coach Claude Julien to put Thornton on the ice so he could get the hat trick. The chants got louder as the period went on, and every time his shifts ended, the crowd booed.

Julien obliged the crowd by double-shifting him and even putting him on a power play. After the game, Thornton was quite honored at the respect the Bruins faithful have expressed for the lunch-pail game he brings every night.

“Not too many people in their life get to hear their name chanted by 18,000 people,” a visibly moved Thornton said. “It’s a very special feeling. The fans here have been great, and I’ve said that ever since I signed here and they’ve been unbelievable to me. But that’s obviously at another level and I’m very appreciative of that. My parents were in the house tonight, too -- my wife was here, too, and she doesn’t come to many games -- so I’m sure they got a kick out of that. I do appreciate the fans here and it doesn’t go unnoticed. I’ve come a long way from my beginnings to that happening.”

Thornton joked that he was struggling to handle the extra ice time and wasn’t expecting to be on a power play again. But he was nonetheless appreciative of the support from his coaches and teammates, specifically David Krejci, who set him up for a perfect chance at the hat trick.

“I don’t know my legs were gassed,” Thornton said with a laugh when asked about the extra playing time. “I doubt I’ll be on the PP again, but my teammates went a long way trying to get me that one and set it up. Krech did a great job and, I don’t know, I couldn’t pull the trigger there and I guess it wasn’t meant to be. But great job by Krech trying to see me and get me that one, and great job by the coaches. The respect there is great and I like the fact that they gave me a chance to get out there and double-shifted me to try and get it. Thanks to the fans pushing that envelope.”

Thornton got the No. 1 star of the game. Julien told the media after the game that the honor was well-deserved and that he was happy to give Thornton a chance at the hat trick and please the fans.

“Absolutely, that’s why I put him out there tonight,” Julien said of the fans chants. “You know, not just to please people but because he deserved that opportunity. That was the first reason I put him out there. When they pulled their goalie, I was hoping the goalie would stay out, you know, to give him a chance, but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. But we gave it a shot.

“Well, he’s getting a lot of credit tonight, and rightfully so. I mean, he stood there ... at the beginning of the game and made sure that everybody knew we were ready to play. You know, he got rewarded with those goals, and those goals he earned, as well. They weren’t lucky ones, they were real good goals, and [he] played a real good game for us tonight.”