Thornton vs. Boulton/By S. Bradley

This post is part of a series looking back at the top 10 games of the Bruins’ 2010-11 regular season.

By now we all know how much Shawn Thornton brings to the Bruins’ cause and just how underpaid he is at $812,500 per season with a deal that expires after this season.

You don’t need any more proof of Thornton’s value than what he did for the Bruins Dec. 23 at the TD Garden.

The Bruins were coming off one of their most disappointing, lifeless losses of the season — a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. What unfolded two days before Christmas was a 4-1 Bruins win that earns its spot at No. 4 on the list of the Bruins’ top 10 games of 2010-11 as picked by

Particularly pissed over the way the Bruins went through the motions against the Ducks, Thornton delivered an early wake-up call with a long, victorious bout against Atlanta behemoth Eric Boulton just two seconds into the game. At the three-minute mark, Patrice Bergeron buried a shorthanded goal to get the Bruins out to the lead.

Michael Ryder and Thornton added goals in the second period for a 3-0 lead before Dustin Byfuglien finally got Atlanta on the scoreboard.

Just 4:54 into the third period, Thornton added his second goal of the night for a 4-1 lead. But the fireworks weren’t over. After Freddy Meyer hit Milan Lucic high as the Bruins forward was crossing the blue line with just around four minutes left in regulation, Andrew Ference played his usual role as team bodyguard by jumping Meyer. The ensuing scrum featured Nathan Horton squaring off with Evander Kane and Marc Savard briefly tangling with Bryan Little.

Lucic then sucker punched Meyer as the scrum was breaking up.

Late in the game, Thornton hit the ice to a rousing ovation from a Garden crowd that desperately wanted a hat trick. Thornton wasn’t able to score that goal, but what he did that night against the Thrashers to not only demand more of his teammates but lead by example was so much more important than any last-second goal could’ve been.