Boston, MA -
When Florida Panther David Booth took a rebound off the boards and tossed it behind Tim Thomas
to put his team on the board, the Black & Gold's goaltender was, possibly, the only person on the ice who knew it was a goal.
“I told (Dennis) Wideman about three seconds afterwards that it was in the crease,” said Thomas after the game. The puck ricocheted off the left post, into the net and bounced out.
“Not only was it a pretty hard shot; he shot it mid-stride,” said Thomas. “He must have turned the puck exactly sideways to get it bouncing off the post like that. It means the puck was level.”
Play continued for about 20 seconds before a whistle was blown and the shot went under video review, only to determine the goal was, in fact, a goal.
Thomas, meanwhile, was trying to keep his cool.
“I was trying to think of the rules, that if they scored again, would it count for two,” he said, “so I was just trying to make sure they didn’t score another.”
He did hang on, and stopped the pucks that flew his way before that next whistle, and all but two of 32 total, to give the Bruins a 4-2 win.
“They’re not an easy team,” said Thomas of the Panthers. “They haven’t had the greatest record this year, but we’ve always had trouble with them in the past.”
The Panthers, although currently last in the Eastern Conference, had won seven of the last eight games in the TD Banknorth Garden between the two teams. The team’s speed and ability to take advantage of misplays, which Bruins head coach Claude Julien had noted earlier, were a factor in those wins – and could have been tonight.
“They kept a guy almost behind our defensemen,” said Thomas, who was often plagued by a red-and-white-clad player firmly planted in front of the Boston net. “They had a couple of dangerous chances where they got out alone. They’re very fast.”
Fortunately, the only major breakdown came with just 3:06 remaining in the game. Ville Peltonen gave the Panthers a second tally in garbage time, but overall Thomas thought the Bruins started and finished the game strong.
“After the second period, we were really talking…about how we’ve got to bear down, we’ve got to finish up this game strong,” he said. “Maybe the tendency is to let up, but we were trying our best to avoid that.”
And with tonight’s game, Thomas improved his numbers and kept the top goalie spot in the league, as he’s now sporting a league-leading goals against average of 1.80 and a NHL-best save percentage of .944. It also helped distance him from the second place goaltender, none other than Florida’s Craig Anderson, who played back-up to Thomas Vokoun tonight.
Thomas, however, knows that he can’t rest on his laurels.
“The easiest thing to forget is the work that’s put into getting that success,” he said. “As a team, we’re really focusing on remembering that and keeping it all in perspective and not getting too far ahead of ourselves.”
Recently, the B’s have done well, but Thomas knows there’s more work to be done.
“We can take a few less penalties,” he said. “If we can keep it simple like we did for a time period in the second period [tonight], and we dominated, we can do that the whole game if we keep holding on.”