Thornton celebrates/By S. Bradley

BOSTON — Bruins forward Shawn Thornton started the season with seven goals in the first 33 games, and suddenly people were comparing him to the best snipers in the league instead of the top pugilists.

Well, by scoring just one goal in his next 38 games, Thornton quieted the talk of him keeping pace with New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk and Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin. But tonight he managed to match Kovalchuk in a big way.

Thornton’s deflection of a Dennis Seidenberg shot from the point tied the game at 1 with 4:21 left in the first period after Kovalchuk had put the Devils ahead earlier in the stanza. The Bruins went on to win 4-1 at TD Garden.

“That was not a thought going through my mind,” he said after the game of matching Kovalchuk. “I didn’t even know I scored. It went off my pants and in. I thought I blocked it. I was going to curse myself for getting in front of it, but it found a way. If I kept pace with him [Kovalchuk] there is something wrong with this game. I will take it anytime our line can chip in with one I’m happy.”

Thornton’s recent 19-game goal drought was getting a little worrisome to some observers. But the veteran told this morning about how he assesses his line’s play: “I try not to look at the scoring too much because when we can chip in, it’s great. And we want to score. But I don’t think it’s indicative of our play; we’re more about creating energy and stuff.”

The energy has been better from Thornton, Gregory Campbell and whatever left winger has joined the trio in recent games than it had been in previous weeks. Tonight Brad Marchand re-visited the energetic duo before flipping spots with Michael Ryder from the second period on.

With nine goals, Thornton has now surpassed his previous career-high by three with 10 games left to play. He’ll always be known more for his shots with his fists than with his stick, but a double-digit scoring season would solidify Thornton as an all-around threat for the Bruins if his goal total and solid defensive play hasn’t already done so.