B’s Rout Panthers in Thomas’s Homecoming

Tim Thomas will always have his place in Boston sports history. I think.

Thomas, who won a cup with Boston back in 2011, took a break from hockey during last year’s shortened season before returning as the Florida Panther’s starting goaltender.

Much has been made about Thomas’s return to Boston- mostly because of the Facebook-influenced political controversy that followed the netminder’s refusal to go to the White House with his team. This, paired with his outspoken criticism of the organization for “leaking” his decision to take last season off, had Bruins fans clamoring for his first start in Boston.

The first period didn’t go so well for the former Boston goalie.

As they’ve done quite often in the midst of their offensive explosion, the Bruins came out hard, pouring 19 shots on net and scoring two goals on Thomas in the initial frame.

The first tally came off a poor play by Florida defensemen Tom Gilbert, who took the puck coast to coast but missed the net entirely with his shot, allowing for an odd-man rush up the ice for the Bruins top line.

After a failed entry on a Jarome Iginla drop-pass, David Krejci found the puck and fed it to Iginla who was then left alone in the slot. Thomas saved the initial shot, but Milan Lucic tapped home the easy rebound- nothing Thomas could do on the play, as the Florida defense hung him out to dry.

The poor play continued for Florida early in the second period.

After an unforced neutral-zone turnover, the Bruins top line maintained pressure in the offensive zone leading to the third goal of the game. Thomas failed to cover up a loose puck, Lucic stole it from him and slid it into the open net- that one’s on Thomas.

The Bruins added goals from Reilly Smith, David Krejci and a thing of beauty from fourth-liner Shawn Thornton in their 6-2 rout of Thomas and the Panthers.

After the game, Thomas spoke of the tough loss and experience of playing against his former club.

“I didn’t expect it to go this way. I felt good going into it,” he said. “I felt like I was going to play a strong game, and well, you can see the results. The good news is, in this league a loss is a loss. It doesn’t matter what you lose by. A win is a win. It’s one loss in our category but we can look forward to next game to making it a win.”

Bruins coach Claude Julien took a similar approach when asked about Thomas- “Eventually, you kind of turn the page,” said Julien postgame. “For us, we did our scouting report on the goaltender like we always do, every game, and it was as simple as that. So it didn’t really matter. Tim’s always going to be a part of this organization for what he’s done, but right now he’s on the other side, and we just have to look at him as an opposing goaltender.”

As expected, the Thomas stuff was downplayed drastically after the game, by both teams, and although he didn’t play very well, he certainly had the line of the night.

“Well, no. I think I might’ve enjoyed myself watching the State of the Union more,” said Thomas when asked if he had fun postgame. “No, probably not,” he then added with a grin.

Rask certainly won the matchup of old versus new, but more importantly the Bruins put a six spot up for third straight game and look to be playing their best hockey of the season.

Next up they face the much-hated Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden Thursday night.

Bruins-Panthers Photo Gallery by Brian Fluharty

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