By John Bishop, BostonBruins.comBoston --
The Boston Bruins dropped a 3-2 decision to the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Prior to the match, both hockey squads were focused on the early season "four-point game" and its heightened importance in the Northeast Division standings.
Unfortunately, the Canadiens got on the board first, as Michael Ryder beat Thomas at 1:04 of the first with a wrist shot, high on his glove side.
Somewhat heroically, the golden gods, faithful Bruins fans seated in the TD Banknorth Garden's highest gold colored balcony seats, seemed to give the rest of the home crowd, as well as the home team, a lift as they began to chant "Let's go Bruins" during the first period following the goal.
After that, the Bruins kept the puck in the Canadiens zone and applied consistent and substantial pressure. Wade Brookbank, the Bruins pugilistic expert, seemingly challenged each Habs skater on the ice following one shift, but found no takers for fisticuffs.
Perhaps inspired by their teammate's show of courage, Phil Kessel tied the game at 10:32 and Thomas, who shook off the earlier Montreal marker, remained strong for the rest of the period, stifling the Canadiens final 6 shots.
A defensive miscue on a clearing attempt during the Canadiens first powerplay of the second stanza led to a goal by Chris Higgins, who beat the Boston goalie cleanly to make the score 2-1 at 6:19.
That goal led to a plethora of offensive chances for the Canadiens who continued to pepper Thomas throughout the majority of the period. However, a big hit by Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara
on Montreal forward Tomas Plekanec seemed to ignite the B's, who again, turned the momentum around on the Habs.
As such, Boston played the last several minutes of the session in the Canadiens end, frustrating the Montreal squad and leading to an Alexei Kovalev minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and his eventual ejection from the game.
Craig Rivet then garnered a hooking penalty and his own unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 1:39 left in the stanza. Chara scored on the ensuing two-man advantage to tie the game at 2-2 at 18:29.
It was Chara's first goal of the season and his first as a Bruin.
After the Canadiens killed the Bruins third-period-opening powerplay, the stanza became a "New NHL" back-and-forth affair, with both teams earning and squandering offensive chances thanks to some fine goaltending at both ends of the ice.
Late in the period, Tim Thomas
channeled Gerry Cheevers and dove to his right side to make a baseball style backhand save to preserve the 2-2 tie. It was easily the save of the year for the 32-year-old netminder.
Unfortunately, the Bruins luck had run out as the Habs goalie, Christobal Huet, kept his net clean throughout the third period with some point blank saves of his own. Huet's heroics led to the eventual game winner by Andrei Markov, who beat Thomas to the short side, a power play goal with less than two seconds remaining in the game.
Characteristically, Boston's Thomas took the blame for himself after the loss.
"He didn't get a clean shot off actually," said Thomas. "And that's what kind've messed me up.
"I thought I had it…we deserved to win the hockey game.
"The guys deserved a save at the end of the game," he said.
Defenseman Paul Mara saw it differently.
"No, it's not Timmy's fault at all," said Mara. "He played spectacularly. You know that save he made in the third period, diving, you can't ask anything more from a goaltender."
The loss drops the Bruins to 2-5-1 and 5th in the Northeast Division. They next play on Saturday against Ottawa at the TD Banknorth Garden. Game time is 7:00 p.m.