By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
There were several factors as to why Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli re-signed Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton to new contracts before the fourth-line trio hit free agency this past season. On Friday night, it seemed like almost each of those reasons were on full display.
The Bruins skated to a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders on Friday night at the TD Garden, largely in part to the effort put forward by the team’s so-called Merlot line. Boston seemed slow to start but picked up momentum with three unanswered goals after falling behind 2-1. The fourth line was responsible for changing the direction of the game.
“They played an extremely good game for us,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “I thought they allowed us to stay in the game for two periods, until we got ourselves going a little bit. They set the example for the rest of the team for the third period.”
While garbage goals aren’t exactly the prettiest way to score, it’s almost too cliched that they were how the grinding, blue-collar fourth-line put the Bruins on the board. Thornton opened up the scoring in the first period, stuffing a rebound from a Dougie Hamilton shot off of the point past Rick DiPietro.
“(Thornton’s) a guy that will do anything for us to get on the board,” said Campbell.
The Islanders pulled ahead after Waltham, MA native Keith Aucoin potted two straight goals but the Bruins tied the game in the second period after another garbage goal, this time from Campbell, who was on the doorstep to bury a David Krejci rebound.
Paille and Thornton finished with a point apiece while Campbell ended the game as the team’s top scorer after adding his goal and an assist. The fourth-line’s offensive production didn’t go unnoticed from their teammates either.
“They’re a big, important part of this team,” said Milan Lucic, who assisted on Zdeno Chara’s game-winning goal late in the third period. “We view them as the best fourth line in the league. They play with a lot of pride and they got rewarded for that tonight.”
The camaraderie between the trio really shined through after Thornton came to the rescue of Paille who was about to drop the gloves with Matt Martin. Thornton received a ten-minute misconduct for his supposed heroics, while Martin was given a double-minor for unsportsmanlike conduct and Paille, a minor.
“Everyone is used to seeing that from (Thornton),” said Campbell. “He has a tough job and everyone in here respects him tremendously. I think it goes without saying on this team, to have each others’ back. On Paille, it was a clean hit. I guess it’s part of the game. I guess team toughness is an important aspect of a hockey team.
“We have been playing together for the last two years, which is a rare thing in hockey,” Campbell continued. “We get along off the ice, which is good because it transfers on the ice. We accept our role and know our role. Sometimes it is not an easy job but we are willing to help the team. It’s a role that we take pride in.”
The win gives the Bruins a 3-0-1 record one week into the shortened 48-game NHL season, good enough for tops in the Eastern Conference for now. Next up, the Bruins will travel to Carolina to play the Hurricanes on Monday night.