New York Hockey: Tim Thomas

What's wrong with the Isles?

February, 12, 2013
With a 6-4 loss to Carolina Monday night, the Islanders are amidst a five-game losing streak that has them tumbling to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

Despite early signs that the team could be turning a corner and poised for its first playoff appearance in six years, the Islanders will have to make up some ground before they re-enter the conversation.

With a 4-7-1 record and nine points, the Isles rank 14th in the Eastern Conference, just two points ahead of the woeful Washington Capitals, and last in the Atlantic Division.

What or who to blame?

The team is 29th in the league in goals against per game, with a whopping 3.58 surrendered, and one needs to look no further than the club's goaltending tandem as to why.

Neither starter Evgeni Nabokov (4-5-1, 3.00, .897) or backup Rick DiPietro (0-2-0, 4.60, .842) have save percentages above .900 and the latter gave up three third-period goals in the team's most recent loss.

Too bad the trade for Tim Thomas wasn't more than a salary-cap transaction. It's not just his $5 million cap hit they could use.
NEW YORK—John Tortorella isn’t a “love fest guy” by his own accord.

But following the Rangers 5-3 come-from-behind win against the Bruins Monday night, Tortorella became almost giddy about his team.

“I just like how we stuck to it and we showed (guts),” Tortorella said. “It was really good stuff.”

In one of their most impressive displays of resiliency, the Rangers from form behind against one of the best teams in the East in Boston and one of the best goalies in the league in Tim Thomas. As early as halfway through the second period, with Boston leading 3-0, the game seemed like a Boston rout and a bad loss for the Rangers considering they had shown little fight.

Finally, something clicked.

Vinny Prospal scored two goals in the second to slice the lead to 3-2 entering the third period. In the third, after grinding for more than 16 minutes, the Rangers tied the game on a goal by Brandon Dubinsky. Just 51 seconds later, Michael Sauer put the Rangers ahead. And in the final minute, with Thomas pulled, Derek Stepan sealed the game with an open net goal.

“It’s amazing to see how the guys kept working,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. “We responded in a big way when we needed it most. Big credit to all guys who kept working hard. The third period has been big for us this year. To get that second goal going into the third period was huge for us. We didn’t panic, we didn’t stress. It was a great feeling.”

The Rangers also helped themselves immensely in their quest for a playoff spot. Had the Rangers lost, and Carolina won Wednesday vs. Detroit, the Rangers would’ve been tied for eighth place, but on the outside looking in because of tie-breaking scenarios.

Instead, the Rangers are now tied with Montreal for sixth in the conference, although the Canadiens have the tiebreaker, and one point ahead of Buffalo for the No. 7 seed. The Rangers are also four points ahead of Carolina and have trimmed their magic number down to three. Any combination of three Rangers points/points Carolina misses out on will result in a playoff spot.

Monday night could’ve been a game that led to the Rangers season ending early. Instead, it turned out to be a game that could be the defining moment of the season if they make the playoffs.

“We came up from being down three goals and made it 3-3,” forward Brian Boyle said. “You feel like you can accomplish something. When you give up three, the momentum is against you and you are vulnerable. Things starting to work in our favor. We just kept at it and we got the dirty goals we needed.”

Prospal sparks Rangers with two goals in third

April, 5, 2011
NEW YORK—Before Vinny Prospal intervened, the Rangers seemed destined for a bad home loss that would hurt their playoff chances.

About midway through the second period, the Bruins scored a third goal, taking a commanding 3-0 lead. The fans booed, the offense looked lost and the Rangers looked outmatch on this night.

But Prospal, the Rangers elder statesman at 36, wouldn’t let his team go down without a fight. In the final two minutes, he’d scored two goals and the Rangers had life. Three goals later in the third period, they had arguably their best win of the season.

Prospal’s two goals in the second period proved to the galvanizing force in the Rangers 5-3 comeback win against the Bruins Monday night at Madison Square Garden. It marked his first multi-goal performance of the season.

“They’re both big because when you’re down three and if you’re heading into the locker room in this league against one of the best defensive teams, it’s more than likely it’s insurmountable,” forward Brandon Dubinsky said. “He gets one of the board there, gets us within striking distance and then obviously the second one is just putting us in a position to be one shot away with the momentum.”

The rally started with a rebound. Trailing 3-0, the Rangers intercepted a pass in Boston’s end and Wojtek Wolski took a slap shot that goalie Tim Thomas couldn’t contain. The puck went right to Prospal in front of an open net and he sliced the lead to 3-1 with 8:26 left in the second period.

The second goal, perhaps more important because it pushed the Rangers within one, again combined Wolski and Prospal. Wolski initiated the score with a wrap-around pass to Prospal, who again beat Thomas with just 1:34 remaining in the period. Thomas slapped his glove and stick down in frustration for allowing the goal.

While it took them time to get going in the third, the Rangers eventually rallied for three in the third to win the game 5-3 and make Prospal feel like one of the team’s many youthful players.

“That’s the way you play. You play for the joy of winning. You play to see how crazy the bench can get the last couple minutes. It’s awesome,” Prospal said. “I’m 36 years old, and I was jumping up and down like a little kid. I have a son at home. When he’s a home, this is what he sees. He sees grown men jumping up and down because they want to be in the playoffs. They want to extend their season. And that’s we’re doing right now.”

Rangers coach John Tortorella complimented Prospal after the game for his resiliency in returning from a knee injury to help the Rangers down the stretch. Prospal missed 53 games, but is second on the team with 21 points since his return from the injury.

erhaps none more important than the two he tallied Monday.

“He has the emotion of a young kid,” Tortorella said. “As I said all year long, I think it is good. No matter if he struggles in the game. Just him being in the room, the way he practices, it is good for the young kids because he is full of enthusiasm. You have to give him credit because I didn’t think he was coming back from this injury. To spark us is good stuff.”
NEW YORK—As the Rangers kept slicing into the Bruins lead Monday night, defenseman Michael Sauer noticed the once-angry crowd coming alive. One goal by one goal, as the Rangers erased a 3-0 lead and tied the game late in the third period, the boos turned into the cheers and the excitement started building.

Then, with less than three minutes left, Sauer, whose goals come few and far between, made the noise in the building reach a feverish pitch with the go-ahead score. He certainly noticed the fans showering him with love.

“That was unbelievable, I have never scored a goal and it’s got that loud, that’s for sure,” Sauer said. “The boys were excited and the fans were nuts and that’s what it’s all about, getting those two points.”

Sauer’s go-ahead goal proved to be the winning tally as the Rangers rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Bruins 5-3 Monday night at Madison Square Garden. Sauer, in his second year, scored the first goal of his young career at Madison Square Garden.

“It was (special) definitely in a big game like that,” Sauer said. “We got down early and we just we had to keep fighting and keep clawing back and we had to take it one period at a time and we won the second period which gave us a lot of confidence going into the third and we just knew if we kept pushing we’d get the tying goal and we kept pushing and kept going from there.

Coming into tonight’s game, Sauer had scored just two goals in his career, both on the road. As a defenseman, he’s not counted on to be an offensive spark plug for the Rangers, but he still didn’t know the feeling to hear all of Madison Square Garden cheering for him after a goal.

After the Rangers tied the game at 3-3, the Rangers kept pushing toward the Boston goal, trying to get the go-ahead goal in an unlikely rally. Sauer saw a battle for the puck behind the net so he closed in on the slot area to see if the puck might pop into his area. He went to the backdoor to see if a shot went on net that he could possibly scored on a rebound.

When he corralled the puck, he saw that bad angle and wanted to pass the puck through or for it to be on net, and the puck somehow beat standout goalie Tim Thomas, barely passing the line, giving the Rangers a 4-3 edge with 2:57 left in the game. His goal came just 51 seconds after the game-tying goal by Brandon Dubinsky.

“Michael Sauer, we have talked about him all year long, he reads plays in our end zone. He was good all night long,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “It is another kid scoring a huge goal so it is great experience for him. In the playoffs, that is a great experience for him.”

While Sauer certainly filled the role as the unlikely hero in this win, he credited the team’s leaders for keeping the team focused during the game and keep the team focused on the task at hand, even with the Rangers down 3-0 more than halfway through the second period.

That leadership paid off, with the Rangers winning arguably their biggest game of the season. And it wouldn’t have happened without the play of a defenseman who was still searching for a goal in his home building.

“It was a big game, no doubt, and anytime you can win like that this time of season it brings the boys together and it brings the team together,” Sauer said. “That’s going to be big this time moving forward.”

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 5, Bruins 3

April, 4, 2011
NEW YORK—This one is sure to be an instant classic. The Rangers rallied from a 3-0 deficit against one of the best goalies in the league to win 5-3 Monday night against the Bruins.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Rangers passed Buffalo for the seventh spot in the East and are tied with Montreal for the No. 6 seed. The Blueshirts also now lead Carolina by four points with two games to go. The Rangers magic number of points is now down to three.

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: The Rangers rallied for four goals in the final 23:26 of the game to pick up arguably the two biggest points of the season. The Bruins led 3-0, but the Rangers rallied and won the game on a goal with 2:57 left by Michael Sauer. Derek Stepan later added a goal against an empty net to ice the game with less than a minute remaining.

THE EQUALIZER: Brandon Dubinsky scored the game-tying goal with 3:48 left in the contest. The Rangers scored two more goals for one of their best wins of the season, if not their best win.

FIRST TROUBLE: The Bruins raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, constantly attacking the Rangers and forcing the action. The Bruins outshot the Rangers 19-5 in the dominating period. Daniel Paille scored Boston’s first goal with 4:44 left in the first and Nathan Horton followed up with a goal just 97 seconds later to make it 2-0 Bruins.

DOUBLING UP: When the game seemed all but over after the Bruins took a commanding 3-0 more than halfway through the second, Vinny Prospal galvanized the Rangers with two goals that sliced the deficit to 3-2 entering the third. He first scored on a rebound with 11:34 left in the period to cut the lead to 3-1 and later beat Tim Thomas off a great pass from Wojtek Wolski to make it 3-2 with 1:34 left in the period.

POWERLESS: The Rangers had four power plays in the game and struggled to do much with their opportunities. They didn’t take many shots, failed to create opportunities and ended up spending most of the time retrieving the puck from their end of the ice. Fans started booing the lack of attack on the one-man advantage.

UP NEXT: The Rangers will host Atlanta Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the next-to-last game of the season.

W2W4: Islanders vs. Bruins

December, 9, 2010
The Isles are back in action tonight, facing the Boston Bruins. Here are three factors to monitor when the game gets underway.

Lighting the Lamp
Boston has been able to save a little on their electricity bills this season, considering visiting teams have been unable to turn on the goal light too often. The Bruins are the NHL’s top defensive team, combining some stellar goaltending from Tim Thomas with a top-notch blue line and a neutral-zone clogging trap. The Islanders are the second-lowest scoring team in the league, which means the Isles’ defense will need to be far stingier than their 3.24 goals-against average Thursday night.

Sparking Tavares
John Tavares has been held without a point in the past two games. By far the post talented player the Islanders have, New York needs him to be more productive ... but how? Every game he usually faces the opposition’s top checking line and defensive pairing. Considering he doesn’t have much help, it’s been tough for him to get going, but it’s doubtful his help is going to get any better this season. JT is going to have to do it himself.

The System
Given the Islanders’ propensity to sit back under new coach Jack Capuano, this could be a really slow game decided by one or two key neutral zone turnovers. The Isles have reeled in their forecheck under the new coach and Claude Julien’s B’s have always hovered in the neutral zone, waiting to snatch up an errant pass and speed back on an odd-man rush. New York will have to take extra-good care of the puck through center ice tonight.

Rapid Reaction: Bruins 3, Rangers 2

November, 17, 2010

Recap | Box score

In a game filled with odd-man rushes from the first whistle to the last, a soft goal sneaking under Henrik Lundqvist's arm somehow accounted for the game-winning margin in the Bruins' 3-2 victory over the Rangers Wednesday night at the Garden.

Striking a Match

Bruins bench boss Claude Julien rolled his top D pairing of Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference against the Callahan-Anisimov-Dubinsky line. That trio acquitted themselves okay in the first 20, but more importantly it opened up some great chances for the Gaborik-Christensen-Frolov line. Not that they had anything to show for it through two periods (see below).

Julien switched it up to start the third, putting Chara's pair against Marian Gaborik and his mates.

He Shoots, He … Wait, Nevermind

While Gaborik and his linemates may have had the three best scoring chances of the first period, none of them converted. In fact, none of them even managed a shot on goal despite set-ups that could have been served on platinum platters.

An early 2-on-1 for Gaborik and Erik Christensen was spoiled when Christensen deferred on the shot and dished to a teammate that didn’t exist.

Gaborik later picked off a clearing attempt along the boards at the blue line, sliding it to Christensen. Dipping behind the net, Christensen set up Alexander Frolov right at the top of the crease but the puck slid by him without a shot.

Finally, another 2-on-1 with eight minutes left in the first went to waste when Frolov shuffled a prime one-timer pass near the right faceoff dot to Gaborik, who promptly fanned on the shot attempt.

I Fought the Law ...

It must have felt to fans that the Rangers were being punished by the refs through the first period, particularly after not earning a single power play Monday in Pittsburgh.

The Rangers took the first two penalties of the game, and were denied a call late in the first when Gaborik was taken down on the good offensive chance. The check appeared to be hip-to-hip on replay but it was a very close call and could have been called a trip (particularly since the Rangers just endured two minutes without Daniel Girardi for a hook). But the referee’s arm was never raised up and shortly thereafter Gaborik coughed up the puck on the Bruin blue line and took a tripping call trying to break up a breakway. The Garden fans were not pleased.

It’s also worth noting that the first two Rangers penalties were taken to prevent odd-man chances for the B’s. The third -- too many men -- didn’t exactly reflect well on the Rangers either.

PK Play

The Rangers were superb in killing the game’s first penalty, seemingly pinning the B’s behind their own goal line for a solid 20 seconds thanks to a great forecheck by Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky.

Playing with Fire

The Rangers appeared to be on the brink of giving up goal No. 1, yielding three odd-man rushes in the late first and early second, including a great shorthanded chance for the B’s during the Blueshirts’ four-minute PP. But it was the Rangers’ red-hot rising star that struck first.

Callahan’s heads-up tap off the boards sprung Dubinsky who sent a wrister through Tim Thomas at 7:10 of the second.

Finally Burned

The Rangers essentially spent the second period giving up odd-man rushes to the Bruins. Milan Lucic scored B’s first goal after Patrice Bergeron beat Girardi down the length of the ice to a loose puck in the corner. A quick pass to Nathan Horton and on to Lucic, all alone in front, was all it took to finally make the Rangers pay.

Marc Staal had pinched on the play to throw a check just inside the blueline, leaving Girardi alone to chase the puck from the opposite side of the ice. Girardi lost the race and it cost them a goal.

And after Rangers rookie Derek Stepan was stoned in front of crease 5:54 left in second (his second great chance of the game), the Bruins’ Toronto trade bounty, Tyler Seguin, whistled a wrister past Lundqvist’s ear off the rush for the B’s second goal of the night. Seguin’s wrister was rocket powered and he snapped it off with a Rattlesnake-like release. Not much Lundqvist could do but wave.

He probably could have stopped the next one though ...

That Went In?

The Bruins took a two-goal lead less than two minutes into the third when a Mark Recchi shot snuck under the arm of Lundqvist and trickled over the goal line, clearing it by maybe three inches. It was a tough break for the Rangers to absorb, and one that Lundqvist felt absolutely awful about after the game.

This Could Be The Start of Something ...

The Bruins also featured their share of flat-footed D-men giving up odd-man rushes and the Rangers (finally) cashed in when Stepan (rotated to the top line in the third) snared the puck at the blue line and raced in on a two-on-one (man, I wish I had a hot-key for that phrase) with Gaborik, who took the feed and finished on his forehand around a helpless Thomas at 5:36 in the third.

Gaborik almost struck again about two minutes later on a redirection, but Thomas just squeezed his leg pads together in time.

Late Chances

The Rangers had several quality changes to knot the score late, including a 5-on-3 power play for 1:46 with six minutes left after Sean Avery drew a high-sticking penalty and Chara sent a clearance attempt straight over the glass. But a scrambling save by Thomas on Callahan snuffed out the best chance on the PP and the B's hung on after Lundqvist headed off for the extra attacker.

Devils not going streaking

November, 16, 2010
The Devils managed to elude another opportunity to post their first winning streak of the season, getting smothered by the Bruins, 3-0, Monday night.

Game Story | Box Score

Martin Brodeur was not in his usual fine form, giving up a bad angle goal with the Devils down two men in the first, then beaten by two wrist shots from the tops of the circles. Not that it mattered, considering the Devils couldn’t mount a single goal against human wall Tim Thomas and a Boston blue line led by Zdeno Chara.

Here’s a glimpse of the Devils media landscape after the loss.

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