It was the most sensational save of a sensational season for Tim Thomas .
With 10:40 left in the third period and the Bruins holding a 2-1 lead, an Eric Brewer missed shot off the boards from the point meant Steve Downie had an open net for a game-tying tap-in. Then Thomas and his stick appeared at the very last possible moment. Thanks to that brilliant save and 32 others, the Bruins won, 3-1, and are on the doorstep of their first Stanley Cup  finals appearance since 1990.
And to think Thomas actually credits the spectacular save and phenomenal game – in part – to the only goal he allowed on the night. The score 69 seconds into the first by Simon Gagne – of course – might have made the crowd and Bruins fans everywhere really nervous. It had the opposite effect on Thomas.
“Well, two things happen,” Thomas explained. “One, the thought crosses your mind that, oh, I got to bear down even if it’s another two-on-one I got to find a way to make the save because we can’t afford to get down 2-0. The teams are too tight and the games are too tight for that to happen, so that thought is in there.
“The second thing that happens is actually in a funny way to start to relax a little bit and I don’t know how it works but it kind of works that way for me. I don’t want to let in an early goal, obviously, but I’ve had experience with it in the past and for some reason, sometimes it can relax me and that’s kind of the effect it had tonight. It was just kind of like I’m going to have to work hard and do the best I can to not let them get any further way and to give us a chance to win.”
And about that “biggest save of the night,” Thomas admitted afterward, he was a little lucky.
“I saw him getting ready to take the shot but I couldn’t see the puck and that’s probably why he had to shoot wide, is our guy was taking away the shooting lanes but I picked it up it was somewhere about half way to me but I saw it was going wide and I was out toward the top of the crease so I didn’t have time to get my whole body back,” Thomas said. “With the way the new boards are nowadays in all the arenas, you got to be on your toes with the big bounces and the big bounce came out and, you know, it was just a reaction and a desperation and I’ll admit I got a little bit lucky there.”
Thomas and his teammates still had to bear down, though. With the Lightning doing everything in their power to get it tied, Thomas was calm, cool and collected everything shot his way.
“I didn’t really notice the craziness,” Thomas said of the flurry after the Downie save. “It just kind of felt like I had for most of the second and third. I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping it under control, actually. So, probably a good thing that it felt like that to me or else I might have gotten nervous. I saw a lot of little plays that our guys made that broke stuff up and stopped their momentum and led to us getting it out of the zone and making them regroup and stuff like that.”
The Lightning wanted to score so badly they were celebrating prematurely, like on the shot by Blair Jones just 1:50 into the third period that hit Thomas left shoulder and pinged off the post. Thomas never thought the shot beat him, despite the premature celebration.
“No, it hit off my shoulder and the post,” Thomas said. “I thought it hit off my shoulder hard enough, I didn’t think it had even hit the post until after I saw the replay. Actually I kind of saw it out of the corner of my eye just barely graze the post too, but I saw it go in the corner but he put his hands in the air, I believe, or somebody did and I was confused for a second because I didn’t think it was in. In that case I saw the play developing, I saw him cut in and I was just trying to take up as much net as possible and take the right angle when he was releasing it.”
Thomas said while the Bruins realize they’re just one win from their first Stanley Cup finals appearance in 21 years, the team will be focused on winning Game 6 Wednesday in Tampa to avoid a Game 7 back in Boston Friday night.
“That is there, the fact that we’re one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals, but that isn’t what we need to focus on and that isn’t really what I’m thinking about,” Thomas said. “We need to focus on just playing the next game as good as we can and trying to get one win and not look at it like one win gets us to the Stanley Cup Finals but just more like approach it the same way we have most of these playoffs and kind of keep it simple.”