Tim Thomas heard the boos from the TD Garden crowd after allowing two goals on the first four shots he faced in Saturday's eventual 4-3 shootout win over the Senators, especially at the end when Ottawa tied the game with just 19.3 seconds left in regulation. But as he told NESN.com, there was no use in dwelling on a bad night. He would just have to answer that performance with a better one.
That's just what Thomas did on Wednesday night, making a season-high 39 saves in a 4-1 Boston win over Tampa Bay. Thomas looked calmer and more poised throughout the night, as he appeared to have put Saturday's frustration well behind him.
"Ask any athlete," he said after the game, "if you have one of those situations where you make a mistake or you come up short, the best thing to do is hop right back on the horse and have a strong [game]."
Throughout the week, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner made no excuses for his off night and instead focused during his training sessions on finding and keeping track of the puck in traffic.
"I worked hard in practice since last Saturday to try to get to the point where you are seeing the puck well no matter what kind of traffic [there is]," Thomas said. "There are no excuses. It's the goalie's job to find the puck and in 98 percent of the cases tonight I was able to do that. If we made some mistakes defensively, fortunately in every case I was able to find the puck, so I at least had a chance of making the save."
His hard work and ability to bounce back did not go unnoticed by his coach or teammates.
"I thought that Timmy played well," head coach Claude Julien said. "I thought he was good controlling rebounds and freezing the puck. I thought he was on top of his game. He got the rust out last game and had a good few days to work with [goaltending coach] Bob [Essensa] and settle his game down. It paid off tonight."
Late in the first period with the Bruins up 2-0, the Lightning broke into the Boston zone. On a cross-ice pass, Tampa Bay forward Alex Tanguay found a wide-open Jeff Halpern, who had an open net to shoot at. But out of nowhere came a sprawling Thomas, who made one of his trademark acrobatic saves, preventing the Lightning from cutting the lead in half and seizing momentum.
"You saw," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who added two assists on the night, "he made that huge save on Halpern. He had an open net. You know Timmy never gives up on pucks like that, and he made a heck of a save.
"You know that could be a breaking point of the game," Chara continued, "because if they would get back by scoring a goal, that would make it 2-1. Pretty close to the end of the first period, mentally, [a goal there] would give them that energy and that boost. [But] Timmy made a save and then we scored [two goals] in the second … so you can really call that the [deciding] point of the game."
While Thomas was excited to help his team win and bounce back from Saturday night, he focused on maintaining an even-keel approach because, as he pointed out, that's what helped him put a forgettable game behind him.
"Not too high, not too low," Thomas said of how he was feeling after Wednesday night's win. "You can't get too low about what happened in Saturday night's game, but you can't get too high about what happened [Wednesday night]. You can give yourself a little pat on the back, but you've got to go do the job again the next night."