WILMINGTON, Mass. -- After two subpar starts, the defending Vezina Trophy winner bounced back in a big way Thursday night in the Boston Bruins' 4-1 win at New Jersey Devils. Tim Thomas made 22 saves in the first two periods to keep his team within one goal of the Devils before the Bruins exploded for four unanswered goals in the third period. But more importantly, he looked like the Thomas that has dominated most of the season.
Coach Claude Julien had been alternating Thomas and Tuukka Rask lately, and with the Rangers on tap for a big Eastern Conference tilt Saturday afternoon in Boston, many expected Rask to get the nod in New Jersey. Instead, the Bruins bench boss gave Thomas a chance to bounce back from two straight losses, and it paid off.
"I know Tim bounces back well," Julien said after practice Friday. "And we needed him to bounce back well. I didn't want him to drag that game with him, because we asked the rest of our team not to. And we needed to have a much better effort in New Jersey, and we wanted him to be a part of that group. He responded well. He seemed more comfortable in net."
Of course Thomas wasn't exactly horrible in the 4-2 loss to Carolina last Saturday or in the 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday, but he wasn't the Thomas everyone has become accustomed to.
"We're not used to seeing Timmy have an average game, and whenever he does, it seems to bring some attention," Julien said about Thomas, who is 19-9-0 with a 2.02 GAA and .936 save percentage with four shutouts entering Saturday. "And that's to his credit because he's been that good for us."
Defenseman Adam McQuaid was happy to see Thomas back to his usual self Thursday as well.
"As we've said before sometimes we take for granted how well he plays and again [Thursday] he made a lot of big saves when we needed him to make the big saves," McQuaid said. "So it was definitely nice to see that effort he had. I know for a goalie and really everyone, but definitely a goalie, things don't go your way, you can't dwell on it because that's when it snowballs. Regardless of whether you have a good game or bad game, you gotta move on and get past it and Tim does a great job of that. That is why he is where he is and is one of the best goalies around."
It turns out Thomas wasn't sure whether he'd be able to return to form Thursday. He didn't feel well during the game-day skate but, as he has done throughout his career, Thomas battled through. After practice Friday he explained the situation by using a classic movie quote.
"To be completely honest, yesterday's practice I felt terrible," Thomas admitted. "You never know what you're going to get. ... You know Forest Gump 'life is like a box of chocolates.' But [Thursday] was proof of that. Going into [Thursday] I would say I wasn't at peak confidence but I've been around long enough to know that you just gotta go out and battle and sometimes things go your way and that's what happened [Thursday]."