BOSTON – At the end of the first period in the Bruins-Capitals game Saturday night, Tim Thomas saw a total of five shots and the Black and Gold went into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead thanks to tallies from Patrice Bergeron, Blake Wheeler – who each had a goal and an assist in the contest – and Andrew Ference’s first goal in 99 games.
The Caps were outshot 11-5 in the first 20 minutes and clearly they came out with a lot of desperation in the final two periods. They outshot the Bruins 36-10 combined in the final 40 minutes and 26-2 in the third period alone.
But Thomas maintained his composure and was up to the task as he stopped 34 of 36 shots in the final two periods and made 25 saves in the final stanza to secure the Bruins’ 3-2 victory.
“Fortunately I was in one of those zone’s where I wasn’t over thinking about anything,” said the 2009 Vezina Winner about the third period. “I was just going with the flow because if you start thinking ‘man they’re really taking it to us’ then that’s when they get to you. They got a goal, but they didn’t get enough.”
Even with Thomas’ third period performance, the third period was still a big concern for the Black and Gold as the 26 shots they allowed were the most in any period since 1971.
“It certainly saved us, there’s no doubt about that,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said about Thomas’ effort in the third period. “We had a real good start and I thought we took the game to them very well in the third. We knew they were going to come out better in the second period and I thought we held our own.
“We were supposed to keep taking the game to them and sometimes it we just didn’t do it. It’s unfortunate. We played 40 minute, and sometimes it’s a bad start and a good second and third, or tonight it was a bad third and a good first and second. So we got to put three solid periods together here soon than later.”
Perhaps the Caps were playing to the HBO cameras in their attempt to make things interesting later in the game. And maybe Bruce Boudreau dropped a couple of expletives when he took his timeout after Wheeler’s goal at 17:03 for the next episode of “24/7 Penguins-Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic.” Either way, the Caps responded well after the first 20 minutes.
“I just said to them to keep your heads up and we don’t have to win it right now, but let’s just stop the bleeding, we’ll get one and you get one,” said Boudreau on what he said during the timeout (who knows if this is a hint of things to come during Wednesday’s show). “I told them that you’ll catch up in the second period, but don’t get depressed because this isn’t going to happen to us like it did last Sunday [against the Rangers].”
Unlike that game in the Rangers, which resulted in a 7-0 blowout, the Caps responded early in the second when Matt Bardley, who also dropped the gloves with Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid just 14 seconds after Wheeler’s goal, netted his third of the year at 2:18 of the second.
The Caps pulled within one late in the third when John Erskine fired a slap shot from the point past Thomas at 14:32.
Thomas’ most efficient save came late in the game with a little bit of help on the defensive end. With Michal Neuvirth pulled for the extra attacker, Alex Ovechkin had a chance to tie things up when he walked into the Bruins zone with about 10 seconds left. But this time, Thomas got a little help from his defense and Ovechkin didn’t get off a good shot and the Bruins netminder was able to make his 39th and final save of the game to secure the victory.
“As soon as David [Krejci] pushed the puck that way I thought it was going to be me and Ovie,” said Thomas. “But whoever was back checking on him actually forced him to not be able to totally cut across the middle and not really get to his foreheand to get a good shot off. That’s what really helped me make that save there.”
After the final buzzer sounded the Bruins were able to breathe a sigh of relief as they snapped a three-game losing streak and come away with the two points. And even with their sloppy third period, they’ll still take the positives out of the early part of the game.
“It was certainly a relief,” Wheeler said about the victory. “The ice was tilted maybe a little in their favor and that’s what you pay the goalie the big bucks for, so Timmy has been tremendous obviously, and he was huge again for us tonight.”