BOSTON – Maybe Tim Thomas is really a miracle worker.
That certainly was the contention of Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher after Tim Thomas almost singlehandedly stole Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals with a 33-save performance Monday that was capped with a save-of-the-year candidate against Steve Downie in the third period that sealed the deal in a 3-1 victory at TD Garden that puts the Lightning on the brink of elimination.
"Against this goaltender, you need more; you need more," Boucher said. "You need miracles. (Thomas) is making miracles. We have to come up with miracles."
It is hard to argue with Boucher's contention that Thomas is making miracles when the play he made against Downie with 10:40 left in the game and Boston under siege again, clinging to a 2-1 lead, is entered into evidence.
The Bruins were scrambling around in their own end, chasing the puck as it moved around the zone. Suddenly, it was on the stick of defenseman Eric Brewer, who just missed with his shot as Thomas moved aggressively way past the blue paint of his crease. Downie picked up the carom of the puck just to the right of the post and had nothing but an unguarded net to shoot at. But, between the time Downie flicked his wrists to shoot the puck and when it should have entered the net, Thomas somehow lunged back and batted the puck away.
Here is how the goalie saw it.
"The way I remember it, you know, it got out to the point and there was a couple of different sets of screens," Thomas said. "There was one set of our forwards and their guy up top and one set of their guys and our guy down closer to me. So, I saw (Brewer) getting ready to take the shot but I couldn't see the puck and that's probably why he had to shoot wide, is our guy was taking away the shooting lanes.
"But, I picked it up it was somewhere about halfway to me, but I saw it was going wide and I was out toward the top of the crease so I didn't have time to get my whole body back. With the way the new boards are nowadays in all the arenas, you got to be on your toes with the big bounces."
On his toes, on his belly, however he does it; Thomas never gives up on a puck. He has that supreme confidence that only the game’s greatest goalies have. Simply, he believes every puck is stoppable, if you battle it hard enough.
He proved that again against Downie with an acrobatic save that perhaps only Thomas could entertain making.
"That was unbelievable," said Boston forward Brad Marchand, who had the game-winning goal. "I was sitting on the bench and I thought it was, for sure, going to be a goal. Those are always pretty easy tap-ins. But Timmy came up with an unbelievable save there -- and that was a turning point."
Afterward, Thomas said he didn't consider it a miracle.
"You know, it was just a reaction and desperation and, I'll admit, I got a little bit lucky there," Thomas said.
But, when you make a habit of getting lucky, is it luck anymore?
Not to the rest of the Bruins, who have come to expect those types of saves from their Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie as a matter of course.
"Timmy's been the reason why we're here right now, so I don't think we should be worried about him. He gave us a chance to win every night so we're very confident with him and we know he's always going to be there for us."
He was certainly there Monday, even before the heroics against Downie. In fact, his most important contribution likely came in the first period when he stopped the final 13 shots he faced and allowed an undeniably flat Boston team, which had just 4 shots in the first period, escape trailing just 1-0.
"He gave us a chance to get ourselves back in the game," said Bruins coach Claude Julien.
All in all, not a bad night's work for a miracle worker.