Tim Thomas and Phil Kessel were teammates for three seasons with the Boston Bruins and again for two weeks recently as members of the U.S. Olympic team. That gave Thomas plenty of opportunities to face Kessel in practice.
All that work paid off Thursday as Thomas made three point-blank stops on Kessel during regulation and denied him again in the shootout, and the Bruins edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on the strength of a Miroslav Satan goal in the penalty-shot tiebreaker, ending a 10-game losing streak at TD Garden.
"At the Olympics, at the end of every practice, I probably took 400 breakaways after practice," Thomas said, "and 40 of them were against Phil."
Thomas played only 12 minutes in Vancouver as the backup to Ryan Miller, and his time in Boston has decreased of late with the emergence of Tuukka Rask. But his 24-save performance Thursday showed the reigning Vezina Trophy winner can still get the job done.
"I was trying to show the team they can have some confidence in me again," said Thomas, who had not won since Jan. 14 and had not started since Feb. 2, a hiatus that included the last seven Bruins games and the entire Olympic tournament. "I'm not going to lie: This feels really good right now. It's the first one I've had in a long time, and it's the first one at home in a long time."
The Bruins had lost their last 10 home games, one short of the franchise record set in 1924-25, the team's first season in the NHL.
Satan opened the scoring and Johnny Boychuk also scored for the Bruins, who sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of three teams fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The win was vital for the Bruins, who begin a seven-game road trip Saturday afternoon on Long Island.
Viktor Stalberg and Tyler Bozak had goals for the Maple Leafs, with Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopping 29 shots. Coach Ron Wilson was unable to find fault with their overall performance.
"I couldn't ask for more from the guys," he said. "We had some great chances -- three or four breakaways. I tip my hat to Tim Thomas; he made some huge saves for them."
Bozak scored off a scramble 6:12 into the third to earn Toronto a point, but Thomas was impenetrable after that. In the shootout, he stopped Kessel -- much to the home crowd's delight -- as well as Jamie Lundmark and Bozak, making a nice pad save to end it.
"I told him, 'You're a Vezina Trophy winner. You don't go from being a great goaltender to a bad goaltender,'" Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We told him the whole organization is behind him, and it was nice to see him respond."
Satan beat Giguere on a slap shot from the blue line at 9:36 of the first period for his fourth of the season. After that, the rookies began to take charge, as Stalberg knotted the score with 4:33 left in the first before Boychuk regained the lead for the Bruins with 4:36 to play in the second.
Hurricanes 4, Senators 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
In its first game after trading away several key players from last season's team that made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, the surge continued for Carolina, which won its seventh straight.
Tom Kostopoulos and Rod Brind'Amour scored 65 second apart in the first period as the Hurricanes opened up an early lead before a revved-up crowd at the RBC Center. Manny Legace made 25 saves and has now beaten all 30 current NHL teams.
"Oh, was that tonight? That's pretty cool," Legace, 37, said. "I didn't realize I've beat everybody. It's something I can tell my grandkids."
Chad LaRose also scored for the Hurricanes and Brandon Sutter added an empty-net goal. The only score for the Senators came from ex-Carolina forward Matt Cullen, who was traded prior to the Olympic break.
"I'm going to say something to him before he gets out of here," Legace joked about Cullen, who ruined his shutout bid on a wraparound with 8:05 remaining.
With starter Cam Ward still sidelined due to a back injury, Carolina has been relying on the veteran Legace and rookie Justin Peters to put together its best streak of what had previously been a disappointing season.
"The guys in front of him really want to play for him," coach Paul Maurice said. "It's good to have a veteran guy who shows that he really loves the game. He's been a good goaltender his whole life."
The fourth line was responsible for staking the Hurricanes to a 2-0 lead as Kostopoulos opened the scoring at 5:18 of the first and Brind'Amour followed by sending Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire to the bench after facing just five shots and stopping three.
"We needed a kick in the pants and a little bit of a shakeup and trying to get the momentum back on our side," Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. "We had our chances, but it came down to goaltending."
Elliott played well in relief, stopping 14 of 15 shots, but the Senators' offense never got going and the Hurricanes eventually extended their lead to three when LaRose beat him on a wrist shot with 4:10 left in the second.
Thrashers 6, Islanders 3 | HIGHLIGHTS
Atlanta keeps winning games in the post-Ilya Kovalchuk era, aided by the goal-scoring of one of the players brought back in that deal. Rookie forward Niclas Bergfors scored a goal and had an assist to help the Thrashers build a five-goal lead before they held off the Islanders at Philips Arena.
"You get a new start when you come to a new team," said Bergfors, who had been in a long goal drought when acquired from the Devils, but has 4 goals and 7 points in seven games since the Kovalchuk trade and 18 in his rookie season.
Bergfors, Nik Antropov, Clarke MacArthur and Maxim Afinogenov all scored in the first for a 4-0 Atlanta lead. Antropov and Evgeny Artyukhin added goals in the second. MacArthur and Artyukhin are also new additions to the Thrashers, who moved into eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta, the Rangers and Montreal all have 66 points, but the Thrashers have two games in hand on the other teams.
"I thought that we had instant chemistry with the new guys," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "That's a hard thing to find. If you score a couple of goals for your new team, it endures you right away."
Mark Streit's power-play goal with 17 seconds left in the first got the Islanders on the board. Rob Schremp and Tim Jackman scored 1:10 apart in the third, but by then it was far too little, too late.
"In that first period, it felt like everything they shot went in," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said.
It undoubtedly felt that way to Dwayne Roloson, who was lifted after yielding three goals on seven shots. Bryan Little set up the Bergfors and Antropov scores before MacArthur knocked in his own rebound for his 14th of the season and first with the Thrashers.
"It's always nice to get one early," MacArthur said. "I had a lot of nerves."
Martin Biron relieved after MacArthur's goal 9:16 into the first and Atlanta extended its lead to four as Afinogenov beat him on the second shot he faced.
"I think we feel good about ourselves," Anderson said. "I don't know if it's momentum or confidence or maybe a little bit of both. If we can keep on this roll the playoffs are right there."
Predators 4, Kings 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Once again, Nashville figured out a way to slow down surging Los Angeles.
J.P. Dumont, Jason Arnott, Marcel Goc and Jerred Smithson all scored for the Predators, who received 20 saves from Pekka Rinne and moved five points ahead of eighth-place Detroit in the Western Conference playoff race.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz saw it as an impressive victory -- especially with a visit to Detroit coming up on Friday.
"L.A. was 11-1-1, and they had been the hottest team in the National Hockey League," he said. "They play a very structured game, and they are very well-coached."
The Kings got off to a quick start, scoring 54 seconds into the game on a goal by Alexander Frolov, but Rinne stymied them after that until Drew Doughty lit the lamp on a third-period power play.
Dumont made sure the Predators didn't trail for very long, evening the score at 4:32 with the help of a fortuitous bounce. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick left his net to play a puck sent in along the boards by Steve Sullivan, but the puck caromed off his stick and directly out in front for Dumont to send it into an empty net.
"From that point, we did not regain our composure to play the game the proper way," Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said. "It just became easy for them."
Arnott put the Predators ahead to stay on a power play with 6:51 left in the second period, one-timing a Martin Erat feed from behind the net.
"It was huge," Arnott said. "We had a lot of power-play opportunities, and we were moving the pick around really well."
An insurance goal by Goc at 2:30 of the third would end up as the game-winner. Erat set this one up as well, finding Goc in the low slot with a blind backhand pass. Doughty cut the deficit to 3-2 at 6:40, but the Kings couldn't find the equalizer and Smithson hit the empty net with 54 seconds remaining, a reward for just trying to make the right play.
"I'll be honest, I was not trying to put that puck in the net," Smithson said. "I wanted to just chip it out to the far blue line, and I got a little too much of it."
Blues 6, Stars 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
With apologies to Yogi Berra, who was born in St. Louis, the Blues are hoping this is déjà vu all over again.
Paul Kariya scored twice and St. Louis routed Dallas at American Airlines Center, passing the Stars in the standings and moving within a point of eighth in the Western Conference. The Blues are trying to rally late for a playoff berth for the second straight season.
"I'm new to the situation, but I'm aware of what happened last year," said coach Davis Payne, who took over for the fired Andy Murray on Jan. 2. "This is a new (season). We know exactly what we have to do and it's good for us to have that type of experience to know it's possible."
Kariya scored twice in the first period. His first goal opened the scoring at 9:28. Then, after Loui Eriksson temporarily drew the Stars even by beating Chris Mason with 4:44 left, Brad Boyes put the Blues ahead for good with 2:32 remaining and Kariya made it 3-1 just 17 seconds later.
"The first shift after a goal for or against is very important," forward T.J. Oshie said. "For us to go out and (score a second goal) was even better."
Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund and Oshie added goals in the final two periods to pad the St. Louis lead and Mason finished with 29 saves. The Blues, who have struggled on home ice this season, improved to 18-9-4 on the road.
"Unfortunately it's taken us this long to get it going," Oshie said. "Now everyone is getting used to each other on a consistent basis."
Marty Turco was lifted after Steen scored 1:50 into the second, giving the Blues a 4-1 lead on just their 11th shot. New backup Kari Lehtonen, acquired from Atlanta prior to the Olympic break, made his Dallas debut and stopped 14 shots in his season debut. Lehtonen hadn't played since April due to back problems.
The Stars missed an opportunity to pull into a tie with the idle Red Wings for eighth.
"We're beating ourselves," Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "We get down and start pouting. When you don't show up and don't give the effort, that's what happens. We can't blame it on the break. We should have come out full of energy that that hasn't been the case."
Material from wire services was used in this report.