TAMPA — In Game 2 in Boston, Tim Thomas was pleased that the Bruins had emerged with a victory, but hardly overjoyed with how that game had devolved into an offensive extravaganza with 11 combined goals.
On Thursday in Tampa, there were no reservations about the Bruins’ 2-0 win in Game 3 or Thomas’ performance as he made 31 saves for his second career postseason shutout.
“[It’s] kind of a product of the way the game goes in front of me,” Thomas said. “So I was able to play more under control tonight, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that we played the way that I’m used to. So I felt comfortable in a game like that. I think getting the first quick goal definitely helped the whole team. And then not just sitting back in the third but going out and getting that second goal made us able to stay relaxed and calm throughout the whole game.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn’t surprised to hear Thomas spread the credit for the victory, even as Julien was quick to heap praise on his netminder.
“We’ve said so much about Tim and rightfully so, he’s been a great goaltender,” Julien said. “He made some big saves when he had to and he’s been good. I guess this is the way this team is, he’ll give credit to the people in front of him and I think it’s very deserving because our team did play well in front of him. But when they had some great opportunities he was also there to make the big saves. So I think it’s really one of those games where you want to spread the credit around.”
In the Bruins’ locker room, most of the credit was headed Thomas’ way.
“He played real well for us tonight,” Milan Lucic said. “He got challenged a lot tonight. He’s been our MVP since Day 1 and we have a lot of confidence in him. I know he wanted to step up and have a big game tonight and that’s what he did.”
The biggest challenge came with just under 14 minutes left in the first period. The Bruins had already jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a David Krejci goal just 1:09 into play, but the Lightning threatened to tie it with a series of chances, including a spin-o-rama by Vincent Lecavalier.
“They came in pretty fast, and I was moving when the first shot came, so I made the save,” Thomas said. “But as I was doing it, my momentum carried me towards the corner. And out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lecavalier was going to get the rebound. That’s when I did the spin around. I was fortunate to get a leg around it, and then actually, whoever was the forward on the net was the one who made the save on [Martin] St. Louis, so the third one didn’t get to me. But it felt good. It was important for us to keep the lead only a couple minutes after taking the lead, and I think that helped our confidence as a team grow.”
Thomas and Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson dueled from there, until Andrew Ference sneaked a point shot in with Chris Kelly providing the screen in front at 8:12 of the third to give the Bruins some breathing room.
“You could tell both goalies brought their ‘A’ games tonight,” Ference said. “They both made huge saves. So I think that’s the only way something, especially from that far out, is going to go in is to have bodies in front and hopefully have it hit something. Because you saw some of the saves they were making tonight. If they see it, they’re stopping it.”
Thomas saw everything on Thursday, and saw to it that none of Tampa’s shot saw the back of the net.