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Bruins blanked by Penguins 03.18.10 at 8:33 pm ET
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Summary – In one of the most anticipated games of the season, the Bruins got their revenge but ended up losing the contest as the Penguins beat Boston 3-0 at TD Garden on Thursday. Tuukka Rask started and took the loss for the Bruins with 28 saves while Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his 33rd win of the year by stopping 17 pucks.

Boston got the dramatic bits out of the way early when Shawn Thornton threw down the gloves against Matt Cooke on Cooke’s first shift of the game at 1:58 in the first period. The retribution by Thornton was the Bruins initial response for Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard on March 7 that left the center with a Grade 2 concussion. Savard will miss the rest of the year.

After that, it was time to play hockey.

Tyler Kennedy got the Penguins on the board first when he took the puck on the rush down the right wing and beat Rask high for the early goal advantage. It was Kennedy’s 10th goal of the year with the helpers coming from Ruslan Fedotenko and Brooks Orpik at 8:34.

Boston took three penalties in the second period and were able to kill them all but the momentum shifted in the direction of the Penguins who outshot the Bruins 15-5 in the frame. Pittsburgh broke through with an even-strength goal by Alexei Ponikarovsky with 14.1 seconds left to take a two-goal advantage into the third period.

Pittsburgh made it 3-0 when Michael Rupp beat Rask far side at 5:14 in the third to put the Bruins away for good.

Three Stars

Marc-Andre Fleury — The Penguins goaltender did not need to stop many pucks against the Bruins, but he ended up stopping enough to his his 33rd victory of the year.

Alexei Ponikarovsky — Pittsburgh acquired the scoring forward at the trade deadline and he scored the separation goal for the Penguins with his 21st in the second period.

Michael Rupp — The center got in a fight with Zdeno Chara and scored the Penguins third goal of the game in the third period to seal the Bruins fate.

Turning Point — The ways things go for the Bruins offense, the first goal that Rask allowed was the one that broke their back. The emotion of Thornton’s fight against Cooke had worn off and when regular hockey activities commenced Boston found itself outmatched. Kennedy got the strike with a rush down the right wing that was fed by Fedotenko. Rask could not follow the quick shot that Kennedy let go and the Penguins had the lead and never looked back.

Key Play — It may not have been the key play to the game, but Thornton tracking down Cooke for the retribution fight on Cooke’s first shift of the game was essential for Boston’s reputation with its fans and within the NHL. Cooke jumped the boards for his shift at 1:56 in the first period and Thornton had his glove off and ready for the fisticuffs by 1:58, showing that he was going to waste no time in getting the matter over with. Cooke got the first few punches in on Thornton but the Bruins enforcer scored the next couple of hits and pulled Cooke’s sweater over his head that brought the forward to his knees. Thornton took the fighting major as well as a 10-minute misconduct.

Read More: Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Cooke, Shawn Thornton, Tuukka Rask
Thornton vs. Cooke photo gallery at 7:41 pm ET
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The much-anticipated Bruins-Penguins game has begun, and it didn’t take long for a fight to break out. Matt Cooke and Shawn Thornton squared off just 1:58 into the first period. Check out the photo gallery to see it all unfold.

Read More: Matt Cooke, Shawn Thornton,
First period summary: Bruins-Penguins at 6:54 pm ET
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It took all of two seconds.

That would be the amount of time that Matt Cooke was on the ice before Bruins forward Shawn Thornton tracked him down and signaled for a fight. Cooke jumped the boards for his first shift at 1:56 and skated to across the ice towards his defensive zone corner. Thorton came straight at him and let him know that he was on his way and they dropped gloves and circled each other. Cooke got the first couple of punches before Thornton went in with as much vigor as has been seen from him this year, registering a couple hits to the head and then pulling his sweater over his head. When the referees pulled the enforcer off of Cooke he was still visibly upset and was restrained as Cooke made his way to the box for the five-minute fighting major. Thornton received the five-minute fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct for instigating the fight.

Then there was hockey to be played and when it comes to that, the Penguins tend to fare better than the Bruins this season.

Pittsburgh scored the first goal of the game at 8:34 when Tyler Kennedy beat Tuukka Rask on a wrist shot on a rush down the right wing. It was Kennedy’s 10th of the year and the Penguins had the early lead.

Like the last time the teams played (March 7 in Pittsburgh), Boston had a couple of power play opportunities to get on the board in the first period. The first came at 5:36 when the Penguins were called for too many men on the ice, served by Kennedy. The second came, much to the delight of the TD Garden crowd, against Cooke at 12:52 when he side-swiped defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on the end boards behind Rask for a tripping penalty.

Just like March 7, Boston could do nothing with the man-advantage.

Outside of Thornton’s retribution and Kennedy’s goal, the play was even through much of the period but the Penguins will begin the second with a goal advantage.

Shots through first:

Boston – 5

Pittsburgh — 5

Read More: Matt Cooke, Shawn Thornton, Tuukka Rask, Tyler Kennedy
Shawn Thornton pregame press conference, 3/18 at 11:49 am ET
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Bruins forward Shawn Thornton spoke to the media following the team’s morning skate on Thursday and answered questions about Matt Cooke and the condition of Marc Savard.

Read More: Matt Cooke, Shawn Thornton,
Bruins looking for win first, Cooke second at 11:44 am ET
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There is blood in the water.

The Bruins know it. The fans know it. The media especially knows it. When Matt Cooke and the Penguins take the ice Thursday night at TD Garden, the entire NHL community will be watching to see how the Bruins respond. The situation has become serious to the point that NHL vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell and director of officiating Terry Gregson will be in attendance at the game and will address both coaches before the puck drops.

The players are not saying all that much though. Really, there is not much they can say. The instigator rule and prevents them from saying that they are going to go out and take Cooke down and purposefully going after specific players for vigilante justice has become a sensitive topic in the league. Either way, the eyes of Boston will be on Shawn Thornton, Mark Stuart and Milan Lucic to step up against Cooke early and often.

Thornton knows there is hype coming in but he is just not buying it.

“You [the media] are the ones that keep hyping it,” Thornton said. “Obviously we are not happy with [Savard] being hurt but we need the two points, we are scraping for a playoff spot.”

Do not get Thornton wrong. He is an old school type of player and understands his role on the team. At the same time, he is not looking for his own suspension and is not a fan of the instigator rule though he understands why it is in place. The letter of the law (rule 47.11 in the NHL rulebook) defines an instigator with the following criteria — “distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.”

That last part would definitely apply in the case of Cooke v. Bruins.

“I am not a big believer in this [instigator] rule anyways,” Thornton said. “We also have guys in this league who aren’€™t as honest anyway so I understand why it is there.”

Every Bruin is more or less saying the same thing — we need the two points tonight because we are fighting for a playoff spot. That is the bottom line.

“The focus is on the game, we have to have two points,” Steve Begin said. “It is very close right now for the playoffs. That is all that matters, that is how we are thinking this morning. I don’t know what is going to happen, what he [Campbell] is going to talk about.”

The media dug at Begin and Thornton, asking about Cooke and the Penguins with variations of the same question (ie, what are you going to do tonight?) but the answer was just about always the same — we want the two points.

“We are just approaching this game as one where we need the two points,” Tim Thomas said after deflecting a question on how the Bruins dealt with instigators like Sean Avery last year. “We are on that border for the playoffs so the most important thing is the two points.”

The game in question from last year was against the Stars in early November. The Bruins, with Marc Savard leading the way against Avery, got into a brawl that ended up sparking the team on a run from November to February last season and was one of the defining moments of the year. Thursday’s game has a chance to be a defining moment for Boston if they can deal with the Cooke issue on the ice and register a convincing win against one of the top teams in the conference. At the same time, no one can plan a defining moment.

“Those type of games, you can’t plan them,” Thomas said. “If you plan them and try to make it into a game like that then it hardly ever works. So, it could be a big win for us to make sure that we are in the playoffs. Beyond that, who knows? You just have to play.”

On the other end of the aisle, the Penguins have their own problems to deal with. They are coming to Boston on the back end of a back-to-back after being dropped 5-2 by the Devils last night and are now tied with New Jersey at the top of the Atlantic division with 87 points.

“I don’t know, I am not on their side and I don’t know how they are going to react,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “You never want to see a guy get injured like that, it is very sad. But hockey happens fast, everything happens fast and it sucks to see [Savard] go down like that and it looks like the rules are going to change a little bit and hopefully we can prevent stuff like that from happening.”

Cooke’s teammates know that he will be looking out for himself come game time.

“[Cooke] is going to come out and play the way he plays,” Eric Godard said. “He always shows up and plays the same way every night. So, I would not expect anything else tonight … [Cooke] always has his head up. He is more than able to take care of himself.

Read More: Eric Godard, Marc Savard, Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Cooke
Thornton on D&C: No one should ‘push us around’ 03.10.10 at 9:40 am ET
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UPDATED AT 1:30 WITH MORE FROM INTERVIEW

Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning (listen to the interview here) to talk about the Marc Savard situation and explain why none of his teammates responded when the center was felled by a hit to the head from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke on Sunday.

Asked why no one had Savard’s back after he got knocked cold, Thornton said: “That’s a great question. I think when the incident happened, I don’t think a lot of people knew it happened, because it happened late, and I think everyone was focused on the puck. That being said, though, when you see your star player on the ice, the response I feel should be immediate by somebody that’s on the ice.” Added Thornton: “I don’t want to take anything away from my teammates or bad-mouth anyone at all, [but] I’m pretty positive if I was on the ice something different might have happened, though.”

Thornton said he was on the bench and did not see the hit when it happened as it was behind the play. “I think the hit was a couple of seconds late — that probably being the dirtiest part of it,” Thornton said. “I was focused on the puck, also. But I did see Savvy laying there, and I wasn’t very happy about it.”

Thornton explained why no one went after Cooke later in the game. “That happened with about 5:30 to go in the game, I think. [Cooke] had one more shift. The rules being the way they are nowadays, it’s tough to go and rectify a situation with under five minutes. I think it’s a $10,000 fine for the team and a $5,000 fine for the coach and then a suspension or a fine for the player, too. So, it’s tough to do it at that point of the game, especially when it’s 2-1 and you’re trying to win, too. But I agree, something should have happened. When someone turned around and saw Savvy laying there, I think it should have been addressed, too.”

Added Thornton: “I know guys that were on the ice were very upset after the game. We have a good bunch of guys here. Everything happened in a split-second. You’ve got to realize the refs get in there really quick sometimes. I’d have to see the replay to really know the exact details of it. When you see a teammate laying there, we care about each other, and I’m sure it might have been a little bit different [in retrospect].”

Thornton warned not to expect someone to jump Cooke if the Penguins forward is on the ice when the teams meet again March 18 at TD Garden. “There’s not much you can do, the way the league is,” Thornton said. “You wait and see what [league disciplinarian Colin Campbell] does with the decision, I suppose, and that’s about all you can do. The way the game is, it’s not like it was 10, 20 years ago, where you could just go put five guys out on the ice the next time he comes into town and beat the snot out of him, because you’ll end up getting a bigger suspension than he did for hitting him. The game’s changed a bit that way. Do I agree with it? No, I’m kind of old school. I’m more an eye-for-an-eye guy on the ice. That’s the way it is nowadays. So, I guess you just come back and play and put it in the back of your mind. I don’t know. You take care of it when you can. But I doubt it will be a retaliation right away like people expect, because you just can’t get away with that anymore, unfortunately.”

Thornton also noted that Cooke isn’t likely to accept an invitation to fight. “He has a track record of doing things and then not backing them up,” Thornton said. “So, I think it’s a little easier said than done. I would have no problem grabbing him and defending my teammate, but I think he would just fall to the ground and the refs would get in there and nothing would get accomplished anyways.”

Asked about comments from Mike Milbury on Tuesday’s Dale & Holley show that the Bruins are soft, Thornton was caught off guard. “I id not hear that. I don’t know what to say, because I just heard it two seconds ago. I don’t agree with him, obviously. I think that when we have everyone healthy and everyone in the lineup I think we’re probably one of the toughest teams in the league,” he said.

Thornton also didn’t agree with critical comments from Don Cherry after Milan Lucic had his nose broken in a fight with Toronto’s Colton Orr last week. Cherry implied that Lucic wanted the refs to bail him out. “I wasn’t a big fan of that [analysis],” Thornton said. “I thought it was a good fight. They both let go of each other and I thought the refs did a good job of getting in there at the right time. I watched the fight over to see … what he was getting at, and I honestly didn’t see it.”

Asked if the B’s lack of response should send any kind of message to the rest of the league, Thornton replied: “It better not. I’ll go on the record and say that nobody should be coming into our building trying to push us around. I don’t have [any] time for that.”

Thornton responded to an audio clip of NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell saying Matt Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard appeared to be legal, meaning that Cooke likely will be in the lineup when Pittsburgh comes to TD Garden on March 18th.

“Well, I thought he would be anyway,” Thornton said. “It was very similar to the [Mike] Richards hit on [David] Booth and I know Richards didn’€™t have the priors that Matt Cooke did. I know that the decision is going to come down today, but I assumed he wasn’€™t going to be getting the 20-game suspension that would put him out of their lineup for the rest of the year anyway.

When asked about what such a reaction means for the league, particularly since general managers are meeting and discussing hits to the head, Thornton said that he sees them trying to change the game. “I guess they are trying to turn the page on the way the game used to be,” he said. “I understand it; it’€™s tough. I guess his elbow didn’€™t come up ‘€” I thought it was a little bit late personally ‘€” but if it is a shoulder to the head, there technically isn’€™t a rule for that now. I guess that is what they are discussing and they should be.

“But at the end of the day I think it has to come down to the players in the league,” he added. “I’€™m a big believer in finishing your check and playing as hard as you can, but going out with the intent to injure someone, I think that says something about us internally. Yeah, we are on different teams, but when you think about it, there are 800-something guys in this league and we are supposed to all be on the same page. Trying to go out and hurt guys for the sake of hurting them, I don’€™t agree with that.”

Thornton was also asked if he thinks that coach Claude Julien might tell his players to leave Cooke alone when the two teams meet. He said that he is “going to assume nothing is said. I won’€™t know until we get closer, obviously, but I think nowadays when you are at this level, you are supposed to know what to do and you don’€™t need to be told what to do or you would probably be back in the minors, where I was for the first 600 games.”

The issue of the Bruins’ lack of response to the play has been a hot topic, but Thornton said he does not believe that it will cause problems in the locker room upon Savard’s return. “I think that is a little overstated. Everyone here has the best intentions, and sometimes things happen quickly and you can’€™t change it,” he said. “There is no point in dwelling on it, and Savvy is not that type of guy. He knows we are all in this together and he is a great guy, so I don’€™t think there is any tension at all in this locker room.”

Thornton was asked about whether he thought about trying to get revenge in Tuesday night’s game on the Maple Leaf’s Colton Orr for the broken nose he gave Milan Lucic. Thornton said the thought had crossed his mind.

“[Orr] is their tough guy and I’€™m ours,” he said. “That being said though, Lucic is 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds and can handle himself with the best of them. It crossed my mind, but at the end of the day I didn’€™t think it was necessary. I think Looch challenged him or he challenged Looch and at the end of the day I thought it was a great fight. Looch got a busted nose out of it, but if you had to exact revenge every time someone got a busted nose there would be a fight every game. I’€™ve had mine busted a few times, too. So it was a good fight ‘€” two tough guys going at it ‘€” so I had no problem with that.

Read More: Bruins, Don Cherry, Marc Savard, Matt Cooke
Bruins breakdown: The fast lane 02.24.10 at 12:22 pm ET
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We continue our Bruins breakdown at the break with the men in the passing lane. On Monday the centers got their attention and Tuesday was for the men riding shotgun. Wednesday is for the men who like to skate fast and hit hard — the left wings.

The group is split by two players who like to let their speed make statements, Marco Sturm and Daniel Paille, and two men who often let their fists do the talking, Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton.

On Thursday we will look at the top three defensemen on the roster and the three back blue liners on Friday before finishing up with the goaltending situation on Saturday.

Without further ado  . . . .

Sturm — Last September the Big Bad Blog took a look at what Sturm would mean to the Bruins offense this year. The idea was that Sturm would be able to fill in the goal-scoring production of the departed Phil Kessel and, if the rest of the team played to its 2008-09 levels, then the Bruins would still be near the top of the leading in scoring.

So much for that.

Last season the Bruins were second in the league in scoring with 3.29 goals per game, almost all of which was done without Sturm because of a knee injury. This year the Bruins have receded to below 2006-07 and 2007-08 levels when they scored 2.56 and 2.51 goals per game, respectively. At 2.35 goals per game this season the Bruins are dead last in the NHL in scoring with the next closest team (Edmonton at 2.43) almost a full tenth of a point ahead of them.

Call it the curse of Sturm.

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Read More: Daniel Paille, Marco Sturm, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton
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