BOSTON — Even two All-Star Game berths, a solid seven-game playoff series last spring and some gaudy goals-against averages and save percentages the last couple years haven’t made Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas a household name.
Tonight he had a giant chance to impress more people than those American Idol contestants (relatively speaking), and he took advantage. With the game beamed to a national audience in the U.S., and of course shown in Montreal in two languages, Thomas produced maybe his most dynamic performance of the season with 34 saves in a 3-1 win over the Canadiens at TD Banknorth Garden.
“Maybe it was just the year before (last) but every time I played on Versus I had like my worst games of the year,” Thomas said after the emotional win. “And those are the ones that friends and family from Michigan get to watch the most. So I’m happy this year I’ve had a couple good games on Versus.”
Thomas came up one save shy of matching his season-high, but these saves were some of his biggest of the season. The hated Habs had been red-hot entering the Garden showdown and were looking to close within eight points of first place. Plus, the Bruins needed to close out their six-game homestand above .500, which they did with a 4-2-0 record.
In addition to his puck-stopping, Thomas added to his penalty-minutes total when he roughed up Montreal winger Andrei Kostitsyn, who had just hit Boston defenseman Aaron Ward from behind in the corner. Thomas shoved Kostitsyn to the ground — probably doing him a favor because Bruins giant captain Zdeno Chara was in hot pursuit with intentions of doing a lot worse to the pesky Montreal forward.
“I heard the hit and I looked over and saw ‘Wardo’ down and the first thing that went through my mind was (Patrice) Bergeron and Andrew Alberts last year,” Thomas said about the concussion-inducing hits of last season. “Having seen the replay now, it was nowhere near as bad of a hit. But I didn’t know that at the time. You just react to a ‘man-down instinct.'”
Thomas wasn’t done making Kostitsyn’s night a disappointment. Although the sniper scored the Habs’ lone goal on the night (a second-period power-play tally), the game turned on a save Thomas made with just 2:16 remaining in the game. After stumbling in the crease, Thomas was still able to move to his left and rob Kostitsyn with a glove save just outside the top corner.
“The first pass had me beat. And then at that point it’s just reflex and getting over and fortunately I was in a good enough position to get the glove up,” said Thomas. “He’s burned me before, so I don’t really feel too bad about stopping him.”
The only people who should feel bad are the ones still wondering, “Who is this Tim Thomas?”