BOSTON (AP)—Joe Thornton was impressed with his former team Tuesday night, but it was his current club that stormed back and won the matchup between the two top teams in the NHL.
“They’re a darn good team, probably one of the best we’ve played this year,” the former Bruins captain said after capping a three-goal rally with his 13th goal of the season, helping the San Jose Sharks to a 5-2 win over Boston.
“If the power play was on a little bit more it would have been a different game,” Thornton added. “They’re a good team.”
The Bruins, who went 0-for-4 on the power play, including a 46-second two-man advantage in the second period, had been 26-0-2 when leading after two. But Patrick Marleau, Milan Michalek and Joe Thornton scored in a 6:16 span of the third period.
“We play fast, we play big,” Thornton said. “They came out really strong and we didn’t have too many answers. I think the second half of the game, the ice kind of tilted.”
Nokelainen was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with an eye injury.
“It’s an eye injury and I don’t think it’s looking good right now,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
The Eastern Conference-leading Bruins, on top of the NHL with 85 points, carried a 2-1 edge into the third period behind two first-period goals by Milan Lucic. The West-leading Sharks, who have 81 points, trailed after two periods for only the 12th time this season, but roared back.
“It’s pretty rewarding to come back in a building like this and get a game like that in the third period,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said.
Marleau tied the game with his 27th goal at 3:32, and Michalek and Thornton struck 2:20 apart. Marleau assisted on the goal by Thornton, who played his second game in Boston since he was traded to the Sharks, on Nov. 30, 2005.
Thornton, booed when he had the puck, scored when Devin Setogouchi’s pass from behind the net hit Thornton’s left skate and beat Tim Thomas at 9:48. The goal stood up after a video review.
Marleau assisted on former Boston University star Mike Grier’s empty-net goal with 28.6 seconds left, giving the Bruins their first three-goal loss of the season.
“They’re the best team we’ve played so far this year and it would be nice to get another shot at them (in the Stanley Cup finals), hopefully with both teams being healthy,” Julien said. “Hopefully we can work our way there, but that’s a long ways off and there’s a lot of things to be done before we can even think about that.”
It was the first time in 10 games the Bruins didn’t earn a point but the loss was Boston’s second straight, both at home.
“We were excited for this,” Bruins center Marc Savard said of the only meeting with the Sharks. “After Christmas we all had it marked on our calendar. We wanted to be ready for this.”
For two periods, they were.
“We played a 40-minute game, that’s the bottom line,” Savard said. “We didn’t play the last 20 and they’re too good of a team not to play (60) minutes of hockey and they took advantage of it.”
Lucic, who had missed eight of 16 games with a pair of injuries, scored on two rebounds—one off Dennis Wideman’s shot and the other off a bid by Petteri Nokelainen. The goals were his first since Jan. 1.
In between Lucic’s two tallies, Blake let a power-play shot go from the right point that appeared to hit Blake Wheeler and Wideman before sneaking past Thomas. The goal was originally given to Joe Pavelski.
Nokelainen left in the first period after taking what looked like a high stick from Dan Boyle, causing a cut near the eye. No penalty was called after a lengthy discussion and the Bruins were told the four officials didn’t see it. Julien was told that Nokelainen was hit by the puck.
In the second period, Boston’s Chuck Kobasew was hit by Douglas Murray and came off the ice favoring his right leg. Late in the period, defenseman Mark Stuart left with what appeared to be a cut near the mouth. Kobasew and Stuart both returned for the third period, but Kobasew left again and Julien said his right wing had two injuries.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance. … Bruins RW Michael Ryder is expected to miss 2-to-3 weeks after undergoing facial surgery Monday. … The Bruins are heading out for a five-game road trip. The Sharks played their second of five away from home. … Boston D Matt Hunwick was a healthy scratch. San Jose LW Jody Shelley sat out due to a lower body injury. … The Sharks are 10-1-1 against the Eastern Conference, the Bruins 7-4-1 versus the West.