BOSTON — Although his labour yielded no great fruit this afternoon, Winnipeg Jets right-winger Chris Thorburn may have earned some points in the admiration category.
The rugged right-winger made a statement early in his team’s game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. He had seen teammate Blake Wheeler drilled in the head by Boston captain Zdeno Chara just 22 seconds into the contest, a foul for which Chara was penalized for roughing.
So not long after Chara exited the penalty box, Thorburn bumped into the big defencemen and received a small whack for his trouble.
That was the road to gloves down and fists up. Part of the reason Thorburn jumped into the very deep end of the pool — Chara has earned his reputation as a fierce fighter and customer — was that he felt the dirty check on Wheeler required some kind of response.
"For me it did (have something to do with it)," Thorburn said after the 4-1 Boston victory. "It was just an opportunity for me to do something during the game early on.
"Afternoon game, so it’s trying to get into it. Any time you can get Chara off the ice, a guy of his calibre, that’s also a plus. There were a couple of reasons for it."
The fight at 3:18 was at worst a draw; Thorburn even appeared to have connected with one good shot on the 6-9 defenceman without taking much damage before he eventually wrestled Chara down first.
When the two players disengaged, there was a small pat on the chest or arm by each, likely indicating each player was good with what just happened.
"I did better than my first one," said a smiling Thorburn. "I didn’t fight him, I showed up.
"But he’s a respectful guy and he’s a class act."
That first fight was just a little more than four years ago, on Dec. 12, 2008 in Atlanta.
In that one, Thorburn gave Chara an evil glare after taking a small stick whack and once the two players circled, Thorburn threw one wild punch, missed and got taken down.
The stand-up act in today’s game didn’t go unnoticed. Neither did the fight between Winnipeg’s James Wright and Boston’s Matt Fraser that began during the ensuing faceoff.
"I think it did (help)," said Thorburn’s teammate Evander Kane. "I think it should have been done a little bit more.
"Thorbs going out and fighting the biggest guy in the league and doing pretty well, that says a lot about him. And Wrighter following that up real quick, that was good physical play."
There remained disappointment in Thorburn’s post-game words, though, since the Jets didn’t measure up very well on the scoreboard. The Bruins won the game 4-1.
"They know how to win," he said. "They know how to do it in any kind of fashion, whether with skill or mucking it up. But we knew that coming in. We just didn’t get to the front of the net, disturb (Tuukka) Rask enough.
"We got pucks there, just didn’t get bodies and that was the outcome."