Joe Thornton did his best to downplay the hype surrounding his return to Boston for only the second time since being traded over three years. But add in the hoopla enveloping a matchup of the two top teams in the NHL and that was a rather impossible task.
The former Bruins captain potted the final tally during a three-goal outburst early in the third-period that helped lift his Western Conference-leading Sharks to a 5-2 triumph over the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins before a soldout crowd at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Sweet revenge for Jumbo Joe?
“I don’t think so, we really just took it as another game, another challenge” said Thornton, who didn’t even have time to remove his skates before a swarm of cameras and tape recorders invaded the visitor’s locker room.
“We’ve been doing that all year and our focus is on each and every day. It’s just another game on the schedule… we’ll be ready for Pittsburgh tomorrow.”
Thornton couldn’t even really take credit for his goal, which came when teammate Devin Setogouchi’s pretty pass from behind the net ticked off Thornton’s left skate and sneaked past Bruins netminder Tim Thomas at 9:48 of the final stanza.
The boos that gently rained down from the Garden faithful whenever Thornton touched the puck early in the game reached their crescendo when the goal stood after video review, putting San Jose out front, 4-2.
Former Boston University star Mike Grier potted an empty-netter to seal the victory with 28.6 seconds remaining.
“I had fun with it,” said Thornton. “I love coming back here. It’s a great city and it was a great game. Two good teams went at it, it was nice.”
The Bruins led 2-1 after two periods, but Thornton thought the Shark took over midway through the game and motored away in the third period. Boston hadn’t lost in 28 games (26-0-2) when leading after two periods.