On Saturday, Tim Thomas enjoyed what may have been the easiest of the first 28 shutouts he's posted in his NHL career when he needed to make just 23 saves in the Bruins' 6-0 rout of the New York Islanders.
On Monday, there was nothing easy about shutout No. 29.
Thomas was besieged all night by the Canadiens, but managed to turn aside every shot he faced. He needed every one of those 33 saves too, as the Bruins gave him no margin for error.
Thomas didn't need any, as he backstopped Boston to a 1-0 victory at the Bell Centre for the club's ninth straight victory.
"He was really good for us tonight," Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Thomas. "And thank god for that because we really needed him to be solid, especially when we took those penalties. Their power play has been really good for them lately, so we had to respect that part of it and Tim made some big saves."
Andrew Ference scored the game's only goal on a delayed penalty to Montreal late in the first period, but it was the Bruins who got themselves in penalty trouble in each of the last two periods. Benoit Pouliot was the biggest culprit, first taking a hooking call in retaliation for a clean hit from Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin late in the second. More undisciplined stickwork followed, with a double minor for high-sticking P.K. Subban that carried into the start of the third period.
The Canadiens also ended the game on the man advantage after a Rich Peverley cross-checking penalty with 1:39 to play. Montreal had scored power-play goals in each of its last four games, but could not score against Thomas and the Bruins' penalty kill on Monday.
"We did a good job of holding on and hanging on there, and keeping their second chances to a minimum," Thomas said. "We had some trouble clearing the zone and we had some trouble with puck possession time, but we made up for that by playing solid."
No one was more solid than Thomas, who is proving to be quite a road warrior this season. Not only was Monday's effort his second straight shutout, but it was his third consecutive shutout on the road. He's now 4-1-0 with an 0.99 GAA, .965 save percentage and three shutouts away from the Garden this season. That includes a scoreless streak of 222 minutes, 16 seconds dating back to a second-period goal in Chicago on Oct. 15.
"He's always good," Peverley said. "Tonight it was no different. He steps up and plays good in this building and he did again."
Thomas has proven to be pretty good in any building. It didn't seem possible that he could match last year's historic numbers, but he is now 9-4-0 on the season with a 1.75 GAA that's actually better than his league-leading 2.00 GAA of a year ago, while his .938 save percentage equals his NHL-record mark of last season.
There's a long way to go in the season, but Thomas is showing no signs of slowing down, no matter where he's playing.
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