New Bruin Nathan Horton flashed more of the skill that could make him the answer Boston has long sought for its scoring woes as he added another goal and an assist. And rookie Tyler Seguin scored his first career goal as he finished off a breakaway with a sweet backhander.
But there was also an old familiar face back in the spotlight, as Tim Thomas earned the shutout in goal in his first start of the season as Boston picked up the split in Prague with a 3-0 win over Phoenix on Sunday.
Just a year removed from his Vezina-winning campaign, Thomas had been relegated to afterthought status by many and an outright liability by some because of his hefty contract and Tuukka Rask's emergence last season.
But Thomas showed he's still capable of coming up with a big effort when needed. The Bruins played much better in front of him than they did in front of Rask in Saturday's 5-2 loss, but Thomas still came up with some big stops, making 29 saves in all for his 18th career shutout.
"You saw a lot of the Timmy that we were used to seeing," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "He battled so hard and even when he was acrobatic it's something we're used to seeing with him. When he's like that he's usually at his best. I thought he had a real solid game and I couldn't be happier. I'm sure Tuukka is standing there wishing he had the same team in front of him as Timmy had tonight, because our guys played well. But [Thomas] still has to come up with some big saves to keep us in there."
It was an important game for the Bruins to avoid starting the season a very sour note if they had been swept by the Coyotes in Europe.
"I'm not sure I would have been happy with this trip had we not won a game," said Julien. "It would have been a real disappointment because we came here with a purpose in mind. Although we wanted to enjoy the experience that was given to us, we also felt that these games were really important for us, especially to get off to a good start. The last thing you want to do is go home down 0-2 to start the season. So this meant a lot to us and definitely coming back at .500 is a lot better than the other scenario."
It was also an important game for Thomas personally, as he tries to bounce back from last year's struggles and offseason hip surgery while working with Rask to figure out the way to balance out their workloads to the optimal benefit of the club.
"Physically, I'm feeling so much better it's incredible," said Thomas. "My hip does get sore some after practices and games, but during the games, while you're moving … I had so much more movement I feel like a new man.
"As far as the tandem thing goes, Boston has had some great tandems in our history," added Thomas. "Hopefully me and Tuukka can be another one of those. There's plenty of games for both of us. With the way the game is nowadays each game, I believe, is more physically demanding than it used to be, so there's room for two goalies to get their playing time and help the team out."
There's also room for more than one scorer, though Horton seems to enjoy hogging the goal light. After scoring both of Boston's goals on Saturday, he added another goal and an assist on Sunday.
"That's something we've been looking for, having guys that can produce on a consistent basis," said Julien. "Horton so far hasn't disappointed us."
He did get a little help in this one, as linemate Milan Lucic added a goal and Seguin scored his first off a great outlet pass by Michael Ryder. David Krejci also picked up a pair of assists playing in his home country, while Mark Recchi and Thomas each picked up single helpers.
"I really wanted to win so bad, because I didn't ever think I was going to get a chance to play [an] NHL [game] in front of my whole country," said Krejci, the lone Czech Republic native on the Bruins roster. "So it meant a lot to me."
The game also marked the debut of rookie Jordan Caron, who played his first game after sitting out on Saturday. He had a pair of shots in 9:42 of ice-time.
Overall, the Bruins put 37 shots on goal, and only a strong effort by Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov kept it from becoming a complete rout.
Boston didn't make any personnel changes on the blue line, but the Bruins played like they had an entirely different defense from Saturday. Dennis Seidenberg and the struggling Matt Hunwick were split up, and both fared better with new partners as Seidenberg skated with Mark Stuart and Hunwick joined Andrew Ference. Stuart may have had the strongest night of the Boston blueliners, earning second-star honors with three blocked shots and two hits in 17:04.
"Yesterday we made some unforced errors that we wanted to clean up," said Thomas. "That's not typical. That's not the way we want to play. And tonight we did a better job of that and put an overall, whole game together — offensively, defensively, better discipline as far as penalties go. We did just about everything better than we did yesterday.
"We knew that to make this a successful trip to Europe, we've had such a great time and everything, but if we didn't at least win this [game] we would have failed on the trip," added Thomas. "We came out determined. Determined to get the puck on net and start getting some goals and just determined to come out with the two points."
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