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Tim Thomas saved the sleepwalking Bruins

12.19.10 at 1:21 am ET

There was a great deal of irony in the words of Tim Thomas following his latest Houdini act on Saturday night at TD Garden.

The Bruins held on for a 3-2 win over the slumping Capitals, a win that snapped Boston’s three-game losing streak while extending Washington’s to an almost unbelievable eight.

But that hardly tells the story.

Thomas noticed early on the Capitals were asleep at the wheel. But it was the Bruins who nearly blew the game by sleepwalking through the final 20 minutes.

The Bruins ran the Capitals off the ice in the opening 20 minutes. They got goals from Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference and Blake Wheeler and Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was in the midst of another breakdown for HBO’s “24/7 The Road to the NHL Winter Classic.” But Thomas figured it was too good to last.

“I didn’€™t know what we were going to get,” Thomas said. “They turned it up for a while in the second there and then they kind of went back to sleep a little bit and I didn’€™t know if… They looked like a tired team for the first two periods and I was hoping that was the case, but it turned out not to be.”

That’s a massive understatement. After the Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead, the Bruins were outshot, 38-10, for the rest of the game, including an astronomical 26-2 in the third period.

Two shots on goal. One registered by Andrew Ference 2:09 into the final period and the other, by Johnny Boychuk with 4:46 left in the period.

So while the Bruins couldn’t get out of their own way in their zone, the Capitals, who didn’t show up in the first period and managed to slowly gain momentum. They tallied one goal but inconsistent effort in the second before turning on the jets full blast in the third. And it was Thomas once again left to bail out the B’s.

“In general I would say yeah,” Thomas said when asked if he figured the desperate Caps would come hard at him in the third. “I didn’€™t know what we were going to get in the third period because it came alive in the second for a little while and then they went back to sleep. I was hoping they would sleep the whole game away, and that wasn’€™t the case. They put on a big push.”

So what changed? Why did the game turn on a dime? The Bruins were outshooting the Capitals, 11-3, when Blake Wheeler found the back of the net late in the first.

“Well, it wasn’€™t just defensively,” Thomas said. “What it was it was getting dumped in our zone and we were getting it out clean right away, and then we were getting the puck through the neutral zone, deep in their zone and then spending time in their zone. So, that’€™s what helped our overall defensive game in the first two periods. In the third period we didn’€™t spend a lot of time in their zone and we weren’€™t getting them out of ours very easily.”

After David Krejci won a faceoff in the neutral zone with 14 seconds left in regulation, the puck slid inside the Bruins blue line, where Alex Ovechkin was there to take one final run at Thomas.

“Yeah, as soon as David pushed it that way I pretty much knew that it was going to be me and Ovie. But whoever was back checking on him actually forced him to not be able to totally cut across the middle and not really get to his forehand to get a good shot off. That’€™s what really helped make that save there. I don’€™t know who it was, but it was actually good defensive play under the circumstances.”

So, only after Thomas made the save – his 39th and final of the night – could the Bruins put a end to their three-game skid.

“Maybe that was good too, consistent, consistent, consistent, so I didn’€™t have time to stop and think,” Thomas said of constantly facing pressure and shots. “You know all the way through Ovechkin’€™s last chance there. So I didn’€™t have time to think about it too much, or at least I didn’€™t over think it, which is a good thing.”

Having Thomas and his 15-3-3 record in net is the best thing going for the Bruins so far this season.

“Certainly, the second half of the game, the ice was tilted maybe a little bit in their favor and that’€™s what you pay the goalie the big bucks for, so he has been tremendous obviously, and he was huge again for us tonight,” Wheeler said. “It was good enough I guess.”

Good enough is great but coach Claude Julien knows that good enough can only go so far.

“Well it certainly saved us,” Coach Claude Julien added. “There’€™s no doubt about that. It’€™s unfortunate’€”we had a real good start and I thought we took the game to them very well in the first. In the second period, again, you knew they were going to come out better and I thought we held our own and still had our chances.

“I thought we had about four really good chances to score that fourth goal and it never came. So, you know, we came out in the third and we did exactly what we weren’€™t supposed to do. We were supposed to keep taking the game to them and we just didn’€™t do it. It’€™s unfortunate. We played 40 minutes, and sometimes it’€™s a bad start and a good second and third, or tonight it was a bad third and a good first and second. So we got to put three solid periods together here sooner than later.”

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Bruce Boudreau, Claude Julien
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