Thomas/By S. Bradley

BOSTON — Clearly if Tim Thomas had changed his style and stayed in the blue paint more often, he would’ve pitched a shutout tonight.

At least that’s what some folks covering the Stanley Cup Final must be thinking tonight after a couple days of criticizing the probable Vezina Trophy winner for moving out too far from the goal during the Bruins’ losses in the first two games of the series.

Instead, he was the same old active, aggressive Tim Thomas and stopped 40 of 41 shots and recorded a hit in the Bruins’ 8-1 Game 3  blowout of Vancouver, at TD Garden.

The Canucks now lead the series just 2-1.

Thomas was asked if there was any he felt any vindication for playing so well in the win after all the hoopla over his style.

“No, because I was happy, you know, with at least the base of how I was playing in the first two games. I mean, I had a 1.50 goals-against in regulation in the first two games, so… I think I’d rather listen to my goalie coach, Bob Essensa, than anything else,” he said.

Many of the “goalie purists” who’ve been ridiculing the man who set the single-season save percentage record this season probably wouldn’t approve of the hit he knocked down Vancouver center Henrik Sedin with early in the third period. But you better believe the Boston crowd loved it during a night of hard-hitting action from both sides.

“He was catching the puck. That happens a lot in practice off of rebounds and stuff like that, where the guy reaches up to catch the puck,” explained Thomas. “I’ve learned from practice if you wait for him, he can put it down this way or he can put it down this way. I get scored on in practice if I sit back and try to react to where he sits the puck down with his hand.

“I had 1/100th of a second to make a decision of what I was going to do. That’s the way I decided to play it to try to keep the puck out of the net.”

He kept that puck out and only Jannik Hansen’s shot with 6:07 left in regular eluded Thomas before it crossed the goal line. It wasn’t a shutout but it was an even better victory because it gave the Bruins life in the series of a lifetime.

“We needed to win this game to start turning some momentum, you know, to start to get us back in this series,” said Thomas. “We’re still down 2-1 in this series. I wouldn’t consider that right back in the series, but I wouldn’t consider us out of the series now either.

“Next game is another important game. We need to approach it the same way that we did the game tonight, have the same effort from all 20 players. If we win next game, then I’d be comfortable saying we’re right back in it.”

Game 4 is Wednesday at the Garden.