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Thomas slams door shut in Game 5

by Shawn P. Roarke / NHL.com
BOSTON -- Lost in all the hoopla surrounding Boston's physical domination of Carolina in Game 5 was the performance of goalie Tim Thomas, who earned the first playoff shutout of his career.

Thomas was called upon to make only 19 saves, including just four in the second period, in Boston's 4-0 victory Sunday night of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at TD Banknorth Garden.

While the quantity of changes may not have been high, the quality of some of Carolina's chances was stunning. None more so than the one-two effort by Sergei Samsonov and Joni Pitkanen while Carolina was enjoying a first-period power play.

Samsonov, who scored a goal in each of the previous two games, was denied on his one-timer effort off a sweet cross-ice pass, but the puck bounced back out to the right of Thomas, where Pitkanen was lurking with an open net at which to shoot. Somehow, though, Thomas got his body in front of the wrister, denying Carolina a game-opening goal that would have turned the entire tide of the game. Bruins coach Claude Julien called it a "typical Tim save."

Thomas tried to downplay the initial save on Samsonov, saying it was a product of positioning because he didn't really see the shot. He admitted, though, that the follow-up save on Pitkanen was something completely different.

"I saw Pitkanen coming in and I was just going to do anything I possibly could to save that thing," Thomas said.

"He's been unbelievable all season long," said Boston forward Marc Savard, who had to picture-perfect passes to set up a pair of Phil Kessel goals. "That pass went across (the ice) and he jumped across and made a good save. That lifted our bench, kept the momentum going, kept us going and we were able to carry that through our game."

It took more than seven minutes after Thomas' signature save on Pitkanen before Boston scored, but there was little doubt that it would happen with the way the Bruins were swarming to the puck and stifling Carolina's speed.

There was also little question that Thomas would have an excellent chance at his first shutout in 16 career playoff appearances.

"I think Timmy deserved the night he had tonight, because he has been with a lot of shots in the games before that," Julien said. "Maybe his teammates felt that they owed it to him to give him an easier night. They did a great job in front of him."

Thomas has been good in this series, but not good enough, being outplayed by Carolina's Cam Ward in three straight games.

"Well, really we hadn't challenged (Ward) other than in Game 1 and (Sunday)," Thomas said.

Be that as it may, Thomas had yet to steal a game for his team in the first four outings against Carolina, something Boston has come to expect from its Vezina Trophy candidate. Sunday, he helped Boston rip Game 5 right out of Carolina's hands, forcing another elimination game Tuesday in Game 6 (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN).

There, Thomas will have a chance to be a difference-maker again.

Contact Shawn P. Roarke at sroarke@nhl.com
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