When it mattered most, Tim Thomas turned back the clock to 2011
|04.13.12 at 8:25 am ET|
For two periods, rookie goalie Braden Holtby stole the show.
Then Tim Thomas reminded him, the Capitals and everyone else that he is still one of the best clutch goalies in the game.
For two periods, Tim Thomas saw a grand total of seven shots. The second period was especially dull. He didn’t face a shot on net for the first 10 minutes of the period as the Bruins outshot the Caps, 17-2, for the stanza.
But then the Capitals came out for the third. They were a different group, intent on showing they can actually get a shot on net.
“More often than not, when your team outshoots the other team heavily for a couple of periods, whether you score or not, there's usually a time period in the game where the tables turn, and I knew they were going to get their bursts sooner or later. So I was mentally prepared for that going into the third period.”
Just four minutes in, Thomas had to be ready as the Capitals were on a power play and Alex Ovechkin was in the low left circle when he skated in and fired a wrister on Thomas.
“It was a toe save,” Thomas said of his left foot save. “I know he likes that spot, generally, over there, but he's been changing it up and going to different spots. I didn't even think about Ovechkin until the pass happened. I was focusing on who made the pass, the left-handed guy who made the pass. I was trying to get to my angle to make sure that he couldn't score. But when I did see the pass released in that direction, I very quickly realized where it was going and who it was going to, so I'd better get over there very fast, and fortunately it hit my toe.”
“When a goaltender doesn't get a ton of shots, it becomes a challenge for him to mentally stay in the game, and even physically,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “You know, you don't want to stiffen up; you want to stay warmed up, and sometimes goaltenders thrive on the more shots they get, the more they're into the game. So I thought Tim did a great job of staying focused and staying sharp, and when he had to make those big saves, he made them, and that was nice to see, and that's Tim. With the experience he's had over the course of his career now, those things are starting to really show, and I thought he did a great job. It wasn't an easy task for him tonight, and the shutout, although he had 17 shots, was well deserved because he stayed focused through the whole game.”
Then came his biggest save. Naturally, it came in overtime where any little mistake means game over. Just about a minute in, Marcus Johansson came down the left wing with only defenseman Greg Zanon in position to defend. Zanon did his job, giving Thomas a chance to see Johansson and make the game-saving stop.
“I was just focused on making the save, and the way he played it, at the last second basically he got limited to shooting on the blocker side, so I pretty much knew it was going to the blocker side,” Thomas said. “I didn't know if it was going to go up or if it was going to go down, and I was just trying to position myself well. Sometimes those shots on the ice are harder than the shots up high in that type of scenario. So I was obviously very happy to make the save.”
That save led directly to a rush the other way and the game-winning goal, just like 2011.
“Actually, it flashed into my mind right away, I was like, man, last year, a couple different times in overtime, when I made a big save, we went right down and scored. And then I saw [Chris Kelly] take the long pass, and saw he had a step on the defenseman, and I had a good feeling. I had a good feeling that it was going to go in, and I had a good feeling about the guy who had the puck. I could tell he had something today.
“Earlier in the third period, when he cut across the net, he pretty much came closest to score out of anybody on the team tonight, before he got that opportunity in overtime. And also he'd been winging a few past me in practice the last couple of days, and I could tell, his shot's going right now. He's humble. He doesn't think so. But I've seen it. I knew he was going to score.”
Kelly was sitting right next to Thomas at the postgame press table and was flattered, and almost embarrassed.
“He’s being nice,” Kelly said with a wry smile.