Thomas had been supplanted as the Bruins' starter before the Olympics by rookie Tuukka Rask, who started the last six games before the break and the first one after play resumed. But Thomas, who backed up Ryan Miller at the Vancouver Games, got a chance to start Thursday when Rask couldn't play due to a knee injury -- and led the Bruins to a 3-2 shootout win over Toronto to break a 10-game losing streak at TD Garden.
On Saturday, he made the difference as the Bruins started a seven-game road trip with their fifth consecutive win away from home.
"The game he played before this one he was outstanding as well," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "You're not a Vezina Trophy winner one year and the next year you're not a good goaltender. It's just about finding his game, and he's finding it at the right time."
Thomas didn't have much work in the first period, when Boston outshot New York 16-4. But he was brilliant in the second, stopping 21 of the 22 shots he faced, and made 12 more saves in the third period as the Bruins assured themselves of ending the day in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
"He's finding his game right now," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "He's playing with a lot of confidence."
That's something you can't say about the Islanders, who've dropped 11 of their last 14 and are 13th in the East. Coach Scott Gordon said his team paid for a flat first period, even though they trailed only 1-0 after 20 minutes.
"Boston played with urgency, and we didn't match it," Gordon said. "We turned the puck over, and I don't think we finished a hit in the first period. That was addressed after the first, and we started finishing checks and turning pucks over, and the momentum changed."
But not enough to beat Thomas, who came home with a silver medal from Team USA's gold-medal loss at the Winter Olympics.
"I'm not happy that he beat us," said Gordon, an assistant on the American team in Vancouver, "but I'm happy that he's come back with two good games. He went into this year with a lot of expectations, wanting to be the guy in Vancouver. It was a tough situation, but I thought he handled it well -- and mentally, I thought he benefitted from the two weeks. He's played well and probably refocused himself. It's good to see him get his game going."
Krejci broke a 1-1 tie 5:04 into the second period, and Savard made it a two-goal game at 9:20. Matt Moulson cut the margin to one when he scored 5:43 into the third period, but Thomas stopped the other 12 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes -- including a wide-open 20-foot blast by Bruno Gervais midway through the period.
The first period was all Boston's.
Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson made a pair of good saves during an early Bruins power play, denying Patrice Bergeron on a one-timer from the left circle 2:30 into the game and stopping Michael Ryder's 20-foot blast 10 seconds later.
The B's controlled play but didn't get on the board until 18:26, when Lucic picked up the carom of Shawn Thornton's blocked shot and whipped a 20-footer from the slot that zipped past a screened Roloson for his sixth of the season.
But Bergeron took a needless interference penalty 50 seconds into the middle period, and the Bruins paid for it on the resulting power play. Mark Streit took a cross-slot pass from Kyle Okposo and ripped a wrister from the right faceoff dot that leaked through Thomas' pads. Josh Bailey crashed the net and nudged the puck over the line at 2:18 for his 14th of the season to tie the game at 1-1.
Though the Islanders took the first eight shots of the period, the tie didn't last long. Krejci put the Bruins back in front at 5:04, finishing off a perfect pass from ex-Islander Miroslav Satan by hitting a wide-open net for his 12th goal.
Thomas preserved the lead at the eight-minute mark by robbing Isles defenseman Dylan Reese from the slot with his glove. Seconds later, Reese took an interference penalty that the Bruins converted into Savard's power-play goal, thanks to a funny bounce. Bergeron's blast from the left point went over the net, hit the glass and came right back in front. Roloson didn't see the puck -- but Savard did, and backhanded it into the wide-open net at 9:20.
"Every once in a while, you get to take advantage of those lucky bounces," Julien said.
Thomas made his best stop of the period at the 12-minute mark, robbing Blake Comeau on a wide-open rebound after making the first save on Sean Bergenheim's rocket from well inside the right circle on a 2-on-1 break.
The Islanders got a chance to get back in the game when Ryder was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for checking Comeau from behind into the end boards behind the Bruins' net. New York had six shots on goal during the long power play, but Thomas stopped them all -- including an excellent save on a rebound try by Moulson.
Moulson found the net early in the third period, capitalizing on a giveaway by rookie defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Frans Nielsen picked off Boychuk's rimaround along the right-wing boards and found Moulson for a quick wrister from the lower right circle. It was Moulson's team-high 23rd of the season.
Though Saturday's game wasn't the most artistic of victories, Thomas said it's another step in the process of becoming a better team -- and making the playoffs.
"Are there areas where we can be better? Yes. Are there areas where we were better tonight? Definitely," Thomas said. "At this point of the year, we need as many wins as we can get. We're not going to complain about the wins at all, but we're a work in progress -- trying to get better in any area we can."
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