Boston, MA -
Brad Boyes scored the lone goal in the shootout to help lift the Boston Bruins past the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, but the night belonged to Tim Thomas
. Thomas won the 7th Player Award, made 31 saves and stopped all three Toronto shooters in the extra session to backstop the Bruins Thursday night at the TD Banknorth Garden. Glen Murray and Mariusz Czerkawski each added goals for the Bruins in the win. The Bruins snapped a four-game winless drought and ended Toronto's five-game unbeaten streak in the final game of their season series. The B's won the series with a record of 4-2-2.
Prior to the opening face-off, Thomas was awarded the 7th Player Award and a set of keys to a 2006 Jeep Commander. Fans were able to cast their votes on BostonBruins.com earlier this year and chose Thomas as the player who exceeded all expectations this season. Thomas exemplified the 7th Player with the phenomenal goaltending he has provided the team since his first start on January 14 when he was recalled from Providence.
"I'm happy to get recognized by the fans for the effort I try to bring, but I would have been a lot happier to win it if we were going to the playoffs," said Thomas. "I guess it was easy for me to win because most fans probably did not know me coming in and had no expectations for me.
"I guess I was made for this one," he said with a laugh.
Coach Mike Sullivan praised Thomas for his stellar performance all season and was happy that the 31-year-old netminder won the award.
"(Tim) made some key saves at critical times," he said. "He is such a competitive kid and I was happy for him. He has been a key reason why our team, post-Christmas, was able to get back in the playoff race. Tim has made saves game in and game out to give our team a chance to win. There have been a lot of one-goal games for us this year. Some haven't gone our way, but he's been an important reason why we're in them. You need to have that to be successful in this league."
Thomas did not disappoint those fans that voted for him either. He turned aside 31 of 33 shots and made key saves for the Bruins down the stretch, especially in the overtime session and the shootout.
The Bruins led for most of the game until Leafs forward Mats Sundin scored the only goal of the third period with just 13 seconds left to force overtime. Hal Gill tried to clear the puck around the boards, but it never left the zone. Nik Antropov picked up the loose puck and hit a wide-open Sundin who beat Thomas over his right shoulder.
In the shootout, Thomas came up huge for the B's and stopped Toronto's Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, and Alex Ponikarovsky.
Brad Boyes took care of the rest as he went in on Leafs goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin and scored the lone Boston goal in the breakaway session. Boyes sniped a hard wrist shot past Aubin's glove side for the score.
"I wanted to shoot it from the start," said Boyes. "It was just a matter of where I wanted to shoot it. When Bergy went first, I saw Aubin drop his glove. That's when I decided to shoot it there."
Prior to the shootout, Thomas put tape on the inside of his pads to try and create some friction between his goalie pads and the ice. In previous shootouts, Thomas has been frustrated with the extra sliding caused by the Zamboni scraping the ice.
"When they scrape the ice after the overtime, it gets real slippery," he said. "It's been a tough adjustment to get used to that ice. I figured I would try throwing some tape under there and see if it would work. I'm not sure if it really did, but it worked in my head. That's all that matters."
Mariusz Czerkawski opened the scoring with 58 seconds remaining in the first period when he backhanded a shot that beat Aubin five-hole for the 1-0 lead.
The Bruins were outshot in the second period, but were able to hold the Leafs to one goal. One minute into the period, Ponikarovsky scored to knot the game at 1-1. Ponikarovsky backhanded a shot just under the crossbar while Thomas was sprawled out on his stomach.
With 4:16 remaining in the second period, Murray regained the Bruins' lead and made it 2-1, beating Aubin to the low stick side.
The Bruins will next host the New York Rangers in a Saturday matinee game. The game starts at 2:00 p.m. and will be televised on NBC.