|SHAWN THORNTON, Panthers|
|A SHRINKING TARGET|
When you play on the fourth line and your responsibility to the team isn’t first and foremost to score goals, sometimes the net’s dimensions can look significantly smaller than its 6 x 4 foot opening. Shawn Thornton, who has made a good living in the NHL looking out for his teammates and going bump in the night in arenas across the land, must have had a surrealistic brush with this impression of the size of a goal net last night against the Coyotes.
Thornton, who used to bring the house down in Boston with his fighting prowess and occasional goals, had to blink twice when he saw the net falling before him just as he had a juicy scoring opportunity on the door step.
With Arizona goaltender Mike Smith out of position, clinging to the right post while outside the crease, Thornton found himself with the puck on his stick right in front of the unoccupied net. Smith then made a miraculous — and dare we say “cagey” — play, as he dove into the crease and blocked Thornton’s point-blank shot.
While this was happening, the goal itself tilted forward and down, giving Thornton an ever-decreasing window to shoot through. But then he got the puck back on his stick! But like a rapidly-disappearing escape route in an Indiana Jones movie, the net continued to close down, with the crossbar gaining speed toward the ice.
With the collapsing net about 18 inches from completely sealing off Thornton’s attempt at his second goal of the year, he managed to squeeze the puck through the narrow opening to — what? the back of the net? No, the end boards.
And in perfect Spielberg fashion, the denouement featured the villain Smith — it turns out it was he who pushed the net forward — sprawled out at the scene of the crime with the crossbar draped across the back of his neck.
Then one more cut — to hero Thornton skating away with a broad, gleaming, matinee-idol smile on his face.
|3/23/2017 vs. Arizona.
Highlight available at NHL.com.