MONTREAL -- Despite setting the record for save percentage with a .938 mark and having a Vezina Trophy-worthy season with a 35-11-9 record and a 2.00 GAA, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas heard some boos from Bruins fans in Games 1 and 2 at TD Garden and some in the media were calling for coach Claude Julien to replace Thomas in Game 3 with Tuukka Rask.
But Julien stuck with his No. 1 man and was rewarded with a gutsy performance from a goalie who always seems to tackle adversity head on. Thomas made 34 saves -- 14 is the final period -- to help the Bruins cut the Canadiens' series lead in half with a 4-2 win at the Bell Centre.
Thomas’ teammates weren’t the least bit surprised that the 2009 Vezina winner and former hockey journeyman bounced back for Game 3 and even within the game after letting up a couple of bad goals.
“Timmy has been great all year and again tonight he showed that and we’re not surprised, we’re just happy,” forward Patrice Bergeron said. “That’s Timmy and you look at his career and what he’s been through and where he’s at now and it’s amazing. You can’t question his mental strength, and he’s a battler and true competitor. We’re just happy to have him with us.”
Julien also credited Thomas, specifically for moving on from some goals the goaltender surely wanted back.
“He made some big saves,” Julien said of Thomas’s performance down the stretch, when the Habs were pressing to tie the game. “The fact that he was able to do that just shows a lot of character because there’s no doubt he’d like to have those two goals that went in on him.
"A goaltender could have just had negative thoughts in is mind and not been sharp at the end, but for him to do what he did, just meant that he was willing to redeem himself and give us the big saves, and he did that.”
Thomas said it was simply a matter of him doing his job and being there when his team needed him most.
Asked if fending off the furious Montreal pressure in the third was a chance to redeem himself for the soft goals, Thomas said, “Certainly that’s what I was trying for was to make sure we win that game, so I was happy to get the win because the team needed it. Probably experience helps in that situation and so the only thing that matters is winning at the end. They're not pretty goals but it’s hockey, you’re going to get scored on and it’s how you respond to them that’s big. Whenever you get scored on, you need to move on.”
Now Thomas and his teammates will be able to enjoy their getaway to Lake Placid for practice the next two days in advance of Thursday's Game 4.
“I think it’s a good idea to kind of get away and relax,” Thomas said. “A little more quiet environment, and for myself personally I’ll be happy to look at all the Olympic stuff there. This win will make that two-and-a-half hour ride a lot more enjoyable, I’ll tell you that.”