NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Joe Thornton is heating up just at the right time for the Boston Bruins.
Thornton scored his second goal with 1:52 remaining, lifting the Boston Bruins to a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night for their third win in five games. He has five goals in four games, helping the Bruins stay close to Ottawa and Toronto in the Northeast Division.
``I thought he played one of his best games of the year tonight,'' Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said.
``Certainly, with that type of effort and that type of commitment that he showed to the rest of our team I think speaks volumes about how he's grown as a player. That's the type of player I think he wants to be, and we want him to be down the stretch here.''
Mike Knuble also scored in the third period and had an assist, and Dan McGillis and Glen Murray each had two assists.
Thornton scored on Boston's first shot in the first, after Nashville took the first eight shots of the game, while camped in front of rookie goalie Andrew Raycroft. Thornton also answered 44 seconds after Nashville tied it in the third.
Raycroft, who stopped 24 shots for his 23rd victory, noted that Thornton also won four draws at the end to help seal the victory.
``It's amazing. Every time you put the (pressure) on him, it seems to get done, and it's real fun to watch,'' Raycroft said.
Nashville, which came into the game seventh in the Western Conference, desperately needed at least a point. The Predators thought they forced overtime when Steve Sullivan scored a power-play goal to tie it at 2 at 17:26 of the third.
But Thornton scored his 21st of the season soon after, flipping a backhander through traffic and into the net. He credited linemates Murray and Knuble with helping him score in near identical fashion to his first goal.
``I saw both goals. I didn't realize how many men they actually took on their backs. But they just did a great job for me coming around the corner and made some good picks for me, and luckily they (hit) open nets,'' Thornton said.
Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun said he was following Thornton as he worked his way around the net to the slot.
``But I just couldn't get there because the (Boston) player just went right into the crease,'' Vokoun said.
This was one of six home games remaining for the Predators, and they could have set a franchise record with a victory. They had their chances but went 1-for-6 on the power play after getting 18 man-advantage goals in the previous 10 games.
Nashville has lost three of four.
``If we're going to get into the playoffs, we're going to have to find every which way to get those points,'' Sullivan said.
Nashville started well enough.
Thornton quickly stopped that momentum as he took the puck and skated around wide of the net and shot just inside the left post, scoring at 3:58 of the first with Vokoun screened by traffic.
Nashville captain Greg Johnson tied it at 1 only 20 seconds into the second period as he scored his 10th on a short-handed breakaway.
Knuble snapped the tie at 9:12 of the third, scoring on a rebound with assists by Thornton and McGillis.