The 2009 Vezina winner turned 2010 afterthought continued his early-season brilliance with 38 saves as the Bruins opened their home season Thursday night by beating the Washington Capitals 4-1 at TD Garden.
Thomas lost his starting job to rookie Tuukka Rask last season. But after Rask allowed four goals in a season-opening loss to Phoenix, Thomas has allowed just three goals in winning the next four games. Only an errant clearing pass kept him from his second shutout during the four-game streak.
"I'm hoping this isn't just a hot streak; this is me now," said Thomas, who had offseason surgery on the labrum in his left hip. "At times last year I felt like I was a one-legged goalie."
Nathan Horton scored his fourth goal in five games, and No. 2 overall draft pick Tyler Seguin had an assist in his Boston debut as the Bruins completed a home-and-home sweep of the Caps. Michael Ryder and rookie Jordan Caron also scored for Boston, and Patrice Bergeron earned his first points of the season with a pair of assists.
Jason Chimera scored and Semyon Varlamov stopped 30 shots for the Capitals.
The Bruins played two games in Prague as part of the Compuware NHL Premiere series, then made trips to New Jersey and Washington before coming home to a sellout crowd that wanted to see if the Bruins were as good as they'd looked on TV -- and eager to forget last season's unprecedented collapse in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Coach Claude Julien used Rask last spring, but he's riding Thomas' hot streak now.
"I understand that me and Tuukka are a tandem," Thomas said. "There's room enough for both of us to play. I'm not putting myself in the coach's shoes; I'm just playing as well as I can when I'm told to play."
Rask hasn't played since losing the season opener, and Thomas said he's feeling better now than he has at any time since 2004-05, when he played in Finland during the work stoppage and recorded a league-record 15 shutouts in 54 games while leading Jokerit to the finals.
"It's just Timmy," Bergeron said. "That's the way he is. He's battled his whole life, his whole career. He's showing that again."
Thomas was headed for his second shutout this season until he left the crease to play a slow-moving puck coming into the Boston zone and spotted Blake Wheeler with a chance for a breakaway against the line-changing Capitals. Thomas' pass was intercepted by Chimera, who easily beat the out-of-position goalie to make it 3-1.
"Wheels deserves a goal," Thomas said. "I wanted to get him the puck. I just got greedy. I should have played the puck out and kept it simple."
Rookie Tyler Seguin helped make it 1-0 when he set up Ryder's goal with 28 seconds left in the first period -- one of three power-play goals against the Capitals, who hadn't allowed any in 25 penalty-killing opportunities over their first six games this season. Bergeron's pass from behind the net set up Caron to make it 2-0 at 2:22 of the second.
Horton added another power-play goal with 7:44 left in the middle period, putting a shot through Varlamov's pads to make it 3-0.
After Chimera put Washington on the board, Zdeno Chara's slap shot from the right circle with 15.9 seconds left made it 4-1.
"It's pretty tough to come back against this team when their goalie is playing like that with a three-nothing lead," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We had lots of chances to score. We just ... didn't."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report
|PPG - Michael Ryder (2) ASST: Patrice Bergeron (1), Tyler Seguin (2)|
1 - 0 BOS
|Jordan Caron (2) ASST: Patrice Bergeron (2), Matt Hunwick (1)|
2 - 0 BOS
|PPG - Nathan Horton (4) ASST: Mark Recchi (3), Milan Lucic (3)|
3 - 0 BOS
|Jason Chimera (2) ASST: NONE|
3 - 1 BOS
|PPG - Zdeno Chara (1) ASST: Johnny Boychuk (3), Blake Wheeler (2)|
4 - 1 BOS
|Andrew Ference Boarding against Jason Chimera|
|Matt Hendricks Tripping against Tyler Seguin|
|Matt Hunwick Hooking against Marcus Johansson|
|Alexander Semin Hooking against Mark Recchi|
|Eric Fehr Interference against Brad Marchand|
|Patrice Bergeron Hooking against Alexander Semin|
|Patrice Bergeron Tripping against Alex Ovechkin|
|Jason Chimera Too many men on the ice|