Panthers' Shawn Thornton talks facing Bruins
Aside from Shawn Thornton, not many members of the Florida Panthers don’t have many fond memories of their time in Boston.
Thornton spent seven seasons with the Bruins and won the Stanley Cup here in 2011.
Despite spending the past two years with the Panthers — and now signed through 2017 — Thornton remains a fan favorite in Boston and continues his extensive charity work here.
As for the rest of the Panthers, well, they can do without the place.
When Florida visits the Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday night, it will be trying to regain its spot atop the Atlantic Division as well as hold off the Bruins.
The Panthers will also be trying to snap a losing streak in Boston at nine games and beat the Bruins for the first time in four tries this year.
“The laws of probabilities,” Thornton said before visiting the Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorders Center at Boston University, which receives money raised by the Shawn Thornton Foundation.
“We’ve had trouble with them and they’re a good team. They’re a heavy team.”
The last time Florida won here was Dec. 8, 2011 — the season the Panthers won their only divisional title.
The only current Panthers on that team are Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson — and Gudbranson won’t play Thursday because of a foot injury.
“There’s nothing bigger than this game and there won’t be anything bigger than the next one and the one after that,” said Campbell, who had an assist on Kris Versteeg’s goal in the final minute of Florida’s 2-0 win in 2011. Jose Theodore made 40 saves for the shutout.
“Obviously we need to be good, need it for ourselves more than anything else to prove what we’ve got, what kind of team we have. … If we win this game, everything else will be forgotten and you move forward.”
Roberto Luongo’s last win in Boston as a member of the Panthers came on March 27, 2006.
Luongo, who will be back in net against the Bruins on Thursday, has his own issues with Boston dating to his days in Vancouver when the Bruins stormed back from a 3-2 series deficit by winning Game 6 in Boston before winning the 2011 championship with a Game 7 victory in Vancouver.
Luongo and then-Bruins goalie Tim Thomas nipped at each other through the media late in the series and fans definitely remind Luongo of the rivalry each time he returns.
“This is just a hockey game; the dimensions of the rink are the same,” said Luongo, who was reacquired by the Panthers in 2014 hours before Florida lost 4-1 in Boston. That game would be Tim Thomas’ final start with the Panthers as he was traded to Dallas the next day.
“We can’t worry about where we are, who we’re playing. We just have to worry about ourselves and be ready to play from the start. I obviously have a little more history with them from my time in Vancouver, but this is a team you look forward to playing. It’s a good rivalry. They’re always important games and that makes it fun. It will be a playoff-like atmosphere in the building.”
Last year, the Panthers finally got the best of the Bruins although it came at a cost. Florida’s 3-2 loss here on March 31 knocked the Panthers out of the playoffs.
A little over a week later, the Panthers returned the favor and eliminated the Bruins with a 4-2 win in Sunrise.
“[Boston] has had a good team the past seven, eight years,” Thornton said. “This year we’ve been competitive with them and didn’t have the start we wanted last time. But in the second and third, we showed we could not only play with them, but we dominated at times.”
The Panthers have been pretty good this season about winning in buildings in which they previously have not had much success.
Florida has won in St. Louis, Nashville and Columbus this year, all places in which they had long losing streaks. The Panthers would like to continue that Thursday against the Bruins.
“We’ve come into a lot of buildings this year that hadn’t been kind to us,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “But we’ve played some good hockey and won same games. Hopefully we’ll do the same in Boston. It’s going to be a tough game, it’s always a battle with them. We just have to come out and play a good game.”
▪ Before signing a one-year extension with the Panthers last month, Thornton said he had thought about this season being his last.
With that in mind, Thornton was considering flying in friends and family members for Thursday’s game. But now that he’s got another year coming?
“It doesn’t matter now,” Thornton said with a grin. “Moot point.”
Thursday: Panthers at Bruins
When, where: 7 p.m.; TD Garden, Boston.
TV, radio: FSFL; WHIM 1080, WMEN 640.
Series: Boston leads 46-34-6.
Scouting report: The Panthers have lost 19 of the past 23 to Boston including all three meetings this season. Earlier this month, Florida trailed Boston 4-1 after the first period yet rallied before losing 5-4 in overtime.