These teams played to a 2-2 tie at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday.
“It’s very disappointing,” Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro said. “It’s a point we let slip away against a team we’re chasing in the standings.”
Thornton, the team leader with 34 assists and 45 points, returned to Boston’s lineup after missing three games with a fractured cheekbone. Thornton, wearing a cage to protect his face, assisted on Glen Murray’s first-period goal.
“He looked to me like he really didn’t miss a beat,” Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said. “For having some time off, I thought he had a pretty solid game for us.”
“It was fine. The cage kind of saved my face from two high sticks so I was kind of lucky I had it tonight,” Thornton said.
Peca was scratched for the second consecutive game Tuesday because of a chest muscle injury.
The Islanders have played well despite the absence of three of their best players, going 4-1-2 to pull within two points of Montreal for seventh in the Eastern Conference.
DiPietro, unbeaten in a career-best five straight games (4-0-1), figures to make his fourth consecutive start Thursday. During his unbeaten streak, DiPietro has allowed eight goals on 150 shots for a .947 save percentage.
Boston, sixth in the East playoff standings, is 0-2-1 after losing just one of its previous 10 games (8-1-1).
STANDINGS (through Jan. 27): Islanders - 54 points, 3rd place, 11 PB, Atlantic Division. Bruins - 59 points, 3rd place, 6 PB, Northeast Division.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 27): Islanders - Power play: 16.8 percent (33 for 196), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.2 percent (186 for 221), 17th. Bruins - Power play: 15.2 percent (28 for 184), 17th. Penalty killing: 82.4 percent (164 for 199), 25th.
GOALTENDERS: Islanders - DiPietro (12-9-2, 2 SO, 2.24 GAA); Garth Snow (12-12-3, 1, 2.73). Bruins - Raycroft (15-12-6, 2, 2.00); Potvin (7-6-5, 3, 2.68).
SEASON SERIES: 0-0-2.
LAST MEETING: Tuesday; Tied, 2-2. At Uniondale, N.Y., only one penalty was called in the game—New York’s Arron Asham for closing his hand on the puck at 11:42 of the first period.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Islanders - 7-12-4-1 on the road; Bruins - 9-8-7-1 at home.