BOSTON – Brooks Laich won’t sleep well tonight.
Tim Thomas planted himself right into the Washington left winger’s dreams on Thursday night, as the 2009 Vezina winner thrice robbed Laich in the Bruins’ 4-1 dismantling of the Capitals.
Laich won’t be alone in the nightmare department. Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin will share the same fate, as they too were stoned, and stoned often.
Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even expected to start tonight.
Tuukka Rask, the projected No. 1 netminder, told the media this morning that he was starting. Head coach Claude Julien protected his hand until Thomas led the Bruins onto the ice for pre-game warm-ups. The Flint, Mich. native surprised the media and surprised the masses, but he knew all along who was going to be between the pipes tonight.
“I knew from yesterday,” Thomas said. Nobody asked me this morning.”
Maybe the media didn’t do its job. Maybe this “surprise” start wouldn’t have been a surprise at all if someone piped up and gave Thomas two seconds of his or her time.
“I wouldn’t have told you anyway.”
Well, don’t blame the cavalcade of journalists crowded around his locker after the game. And don’t blame Julien for giving Thomas back-to-back starts against some of the best goal-getters in the game.
“The way he played in Washington, coming back with him was important.” Julien said. “They knew what they were going to face, and he didn’t give them much (in Washington). I thought maybe, mentally, it was giving us an edge to put him in net against them again tonight. He proved us right. He was outstanding tonight.”
It was out of necessity that Thomas be outstanding. The Capitals outshot the Bruins, 13-8, in the first period. Through seven minutes, Washington outshot Boston, 5-1. Around the 11:00 mark, Thomas stuffed Laich on a 2-on-1. He then robbed Laich with the glove before he denied both Ovechkin and Backstrom.
“We knew they were going to come out with a push,” Thomas said. “I think we handled that push just about as well as we could have in the first period.”
Michael Ryder potted a power play goal at the 19:32 mark of the first to put Boston ahead, 1-0. The Capitals outplayed the Bruins with nothing to show for it. In the second period, the Bruins used momentum from Thomas’ spectacular saves and Ryder’s timely goal to put Washington away.“That’s what’s supposed to happen,” Thomas said. The goalie makes a couple of saves and the team responds by ultimately scoring goals.”
Thomas made 38 saves, and only once did he look human. Halfway through the third period, an attempt to push the puck up ice landed on the tape of Jason Chimera’s stick. Chimera slotted the biscuit into the back of the net for the lone Washington goal.
“It was a bad play,” Thomas said. “It was a mistake. I guess I owe Jason that from last year when I punched him in the last game of the year. Now we’re even,” he laughed.
More importantly, Thomas rebounded from his gaffe and kept Washington at bay. A goal that could have changed the complexion of the game became nothing more than a shutout-spoiler.
“It’s more important to finish off the game and get the win and not to let that be something that got into my head and all of a sudden I let in another goal and it’s 3-2. I’m glad I’m 36 in this case, because I’ve had these situations before.”
Thomas finished with a flourish, and thanks to his standout performance, the Bruins are now winners of four-straight games. It’s vintage Thomas, and the Bruins can’t be happier.