BOSTON — It looked like an eerie and all-too-familiar situation tonight for the Boston Bruins. The Tampa Bay Lightning took an early 1-0 lead in Game 5 just 1:09 in the opening frame, deflating all energy and optimism inside the TD Garden.
Steven Stamkos quickly created a 2-on-1 as the young All Star was flying down the right-wing against B’s blueliner Johnny Boychuk. To Stamkos’ left was the Bruins killer, Simon Gagne. The sniper made a tape-to-tape pass past the Bruins defender, and Gagne effortlessly zipped it past Thomas — putting the bad guys on the board first.
But Tim Thomas quickly shook-off the the goal and ignored the flashing red light behind him, and proceeded to stop the next 13 shots in the first period — 33 in all. His game plan and mental state never changed.
“Well, two things happen,” Thomas said about what goes through his mind when allowing such a quick goal. “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 second thing that happens is actually in a funny way to start to relax a little bit,” added the soon-to-be two-time Vezina Trophy winner. “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.”
The Bruins were simply flat through the first 20 minutes last night. They were outshot 14-4, gave up three power opportunities to the Lightning, and went nearly 14 minutes between shots two and three.
“Well tonight it wasn’t really a sense of relief to get to the end of the first period only down 1-0. Even during the first period I was hoping that we would tie it up,” Thomas said. “Going in though, we know we did not start out the game the way we would like to play and it shows a lot of character to the fact that we were able to come out in the second and turn our game around.”
Despite his unorthodox style in net, Thomas’ calmness between the pipes radiated confidence throughout the team. His stellar play in the crease after every shot stopped gave the Bruins a chance to win once again in Game 4.
“He seems to be so calm out there,” said Bruins’ forward Brad Marchand, who scored the game-winning goal in the second period. “Even the last half of the game you saw some of the saves he was making and you kind of look at him and you get a sense of confidence just from the way he stands there.
“I think that’s why he’s such a great goalie, in those big moments when you need him he’s calm and relaxed and he’s confident and that’s big for us.”
Thomas may have made the biggest, baddest, most jaw-dropping save that would even make Dominik Hasek jealous. Words can’t describe this beauty, so take another look for yourself:
Make no mistake about it, folks. Had it not been for Thomas dating back to Round One against the Habs, the Bruins would have put about six or seven solid rounds of golf by now. Despite a shaky Game 4, where the Bruins lost a 3-0 lead, Thomas was like clockwork last night against the Bolts; bouncing back with another big game.
His resiliency makes him the undeniable MVP of this Bruins team, a clear frontrunner as an early Conn Smythe candidate, and the No. 1 reason why the Bruins are just one win away from the Promiseland — the Stanley Cup Finals.
Thomas is as clutch as they come. Dusting off an early 1-0 deficit to a dangerous team by making save after save at the most crucial of times cannot be understated.
“Timmy made some big ones at the times we needed them,” said captain Zdeno Chara
“I think he was excellent. He made some game-saving saves and that’s what you need from your goalie to get a win especially at this time of the year,” said defenseman Adam McQuaid. “He’s been great all year and tonight was no different.”
With continued efforts like these from your best, most important player, ending this series at Game 6 is very possible.