GAME: Boston Bruins (23-22-8) at Montreal Canadiens (23-22-6).
TIME: Saturday, Noon EST.
The Boston Bruins probably figured they would need Joe Thornton to deliver solid two-way play and Andrew Raycroft to perform as he did during a strong rookie campaign if they were to be successful this season.
Instead, Boston traded its former captain and turned to a 31-year-old goaltender who spent most of his career in Europe and the minor leagues.
Tim Thomas and the Bruins look to continue their surge and complete a home-and-home sweep of the Montreal Canadiens when the teams meet at the Bell Centre.
Thomas stopped 16 shots, and Glen Murray and Patrice Bergeron scored power-play goals in the second period to lift the Bruins to a 3-1 win over the Canadiens on Thursday night.
"We all believed in ourselves," Bergeron said after Boston improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine games. "It was a matter of confidence and that creates a fine line between winning and losing."
Thomas and Marco Sturm, one of three players acquired from San Jose in the Thornton deal, have been a big part of Boston's success.
Having played the last three seasons in the AHL and Finland, Thomas made his 10th straight start Thursday and has lost only once in regulation during that span. He's allowed nine goals in the last five games. Thomas played in just four NHL games before this season.
Raycroft, who went 29-18-9 and won the Calder Trophy in 2003-04, has not played since Jan. 12 and is 7-16-2 with a 3.68 goals-against average.
Sturm was scoreless Thursday, but has 14 goals and 10 assists in 27 games since coming to Boston with Wayne Primeau and defenseman Brad Stuart.
While Boston has been climbing out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, Montreal is fading.
Tomas Plekanec gave Montreal a 1-0 lead off a feed from Sheldon Souray at 15:14 of the first period on Thursday, but the Canadiens were outshot 24-9 over the final 40 minutes.
Montreal lost for the sixth time in eight games and fell into last place in the Northeast Division, two points behind Boston.
"We are walking a fine line right now," Souray said. "The penalties are killing us and we need to play more desperate and get more urgency in our game."
Cristobal Huet has started three of Montreal's last five games in place of the struggling Jose Theodore and made 34 saves Thursday. Theodore, who won the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2001-02, has only four wins since Dec 13.
STANDINGS: Bruins - 54 points, 4th place, 20 PB, Northeast Division. Canadiens - 52 points, 5th place, 22 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Bruins - Sturm, 20 goals; Bergeron, 28 assists and 44 points; Hal Gill, 72 PIM. Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 20 goals; Saku Koivu, 24 assists and 38 points; Steve Begin, 95 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Bruins - Power play: 15.7 percent (45 for 286), 23rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.2 percent (267 for 317), 9th (tied). Canadiens - Power play: 18.3 percent (53 for 290), 10th. Penalty killing: 79.9 percent (255 for 319), 24th.
GOALTENDERS: Bruins - Thomas (6-1-2, 1 SO, 1.96 GAA); Raycroft (7-16-2, 3.68). Canadiens - Huet (3-4-1, 3.02); Theodore (17-15-5, 3.46).
SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Thursday; Bruins, 3-1. At Boston, Bergeron and Brad Boyes each had a goal and an assist for the Bruins.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Bruins - 12-12-4 on the road; Canadiens - 14-7-2 at home.