Commentary

Trying times for Thomas

Bruins goalie vents frustration after being pulled again

Updated: March 30, 2010, 10:56 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- In the hallway behind the Boston bench at TD Garden, there are shards of a goalie stick left behind by the Bruins' Tim Thomas.

The splintered remains are a clear indication how frustrated the reigning Vezina Trophy winner became after he was pulled from Monday's game against the Buffalo Sabres, the sixth time he's been yanked this season. At the 6:08 mark of the second period, Bruins coach Claude Julien decided he had seen enough and pulled Thomas in an attempt to spark his team.

It seemed to work, but in the end the Sabres still came away with a 3-2 victory over the Bruins.

[+] EnlargeBruins
Brian Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesTim Thomas was pulled by Bruins coach Claude Julien for the sixth time this season Monday, and it didn't sit well with the netminder.

As Tuukka Rask grabbed his gloves, stick and mask and made his way to the net, many of the 17,565 in attendance stood and began to chant "Tuuuuuk," and as Thomas skated off the ice, the fans also mixed in a few boos.

Thomas was so angry he was being pulled after allowing three goals on 14 shots, he said he wasn't paying attention to the reaction.

"Were they booing?" he asked. "I don't know. I didn't hear it. I don't know if they were booing me, or booing the fact I was leaving the game. I don't know what they were booing."

When Thomas got to the bench, he walked down the runway under the protective cover and slammed his stick against the wall several times. He disappeared and didn't return to the bench for a few minutes.

"I was in the hallway," he said. "You get angry and you've got to take a few minutes to settle down."

Here's how Thomas described his night after the Sabres' Tyler Myers, Paul Gaustad and Tim Kennedy scored Buffalo's three unanswered goals against him.

First goal: "It was waffling the whole way, and guys were trying to block it, and I think it might have gone off somebody [Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman]. I was told that it was by people who saw the replay. I didn't get to see the replay."

Thomas was completely screened on the shot and it was deflected by Wideman before it went in at 9:56 of the first period. From the other end of the ice, Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (40 saves) had a good look at the goal.

"I don't think Thomas had a chance on that one," Miller said.

Second goal: Gaustad knocked in what appeared to be a bad rebound allowed by Thomas on a shot from Myers just inside the blue line at 11:34 of the first.

"I actually put the rebound exactly where I wanted to," Thomas said. "There were two Buffalo guys crashing the net, so I put it in the middle between the two of them to black jerseys. They were coming back so hard they just overskated it. [Gaustad] just whacked at it, it hit something else [Wideman] and it bounced over my pad."

Miller saw it differently from the other end of the ice.

"If you ask [Thomas] about the second one, he would want to control the rebound differently," Miller said. "But I think that was Tyler making a hard shot across the body and Tyler has a pretty hard shot. He's a big kid; knocking down one of his wrist shots sometimes is all you can do. I don't think there was a whole lot he could do -- at least on two of those goals."

Third goal: Kennedy's shot trickled through Thomas' pads at 6:08 of the second period.

Buffalo had a 3-1 lead when Julien signaled to Rask. It was the sixth time since Dec. 4 the Bruins have used two goalies in a game, and Boston is 0-6-0 in those games.

"At that point there, that goal was a 2-on-1 and it kind of trickled through," Julien said. "Somewhere you've got to change the momentum, you've got to do something to help your team out, so that's what we decided to do at that time."

That was the last goal the Sabres scored, as Rask finished with 19 saves. Despite the loss, the Bruins did respond after Thomas was pulled, but Miller stifled any quality scoring chances Boston produced.

"Obviously we got ourselves back in the game," Julien said. "It was 3-1, then 3-2 and in those last minutes of the third we were just all over them. Desperation does that."

It was a difficult night for Thomas, especially given the amount of confidence he had coming into the game because of his 31-save shutout performance over the Calgary Flames on Saturday at the Garden.

"It was [frustrating]," he said. "You'd like to stay in a game and battle it out. It's no fun getting pulled."

Entering Monday's game, Thomas had served as Rask's backup in seven of the previous eight games, as the Bruins were leaning on the rookie goaltender down the stretch. Julien explained he decided to go with Thomas on Monday night based on his success over the weekend, and due to the fact the Bruins have back-to-back games, as they face the Devils in New Jersey on Tuesday night. Plus, Thomas allowed three unanswered goals in the first period against the Devils and was pulled in the previous game in New Jersey on March 15.

"Hindsight is always 20-20," Julien said. "If we get a win tonight, [starting Thomas] is definitely a great move. At the same time, if we're going to look at pointing the finger there, I think we have to look at missed opportunities. We had the opportunities to score more than two goals and we didn't do it."

Rask said he didn't expect Thomas to get pulled when he did. There are no hard feelings between the two Boston netminders, but Rask wasn't pleased with the fans' reaction.

"What can I say? Who would like that?" he said. "We can't control if the fans boo us or cheer us. It's up to them, and we just try to ignore it."

The Sabres' Miller and Thomas have become good friends. Both are Michigan natives and were teammates for Team USA during this year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Miller, of course, helped the Americans to a silver medal and was named MVP. Thomas was his backup.

When Thomas was leaving the ice Monday night, Miller felt for him.

"It's unfortunate," Miller said. "It's been a tough season, and the fans in this town are tough. It's the same in Buffalo. We've had some tough seasons, and I've left the ice under duress a few times. It's part of being a goaltender; you're not always going to have things going your way. You need to hang with it and be a good teammate. I know Timmy is doing the right stuff, he's a battler. It's just not going the way he wants to right now."

Because of Thomas' inconsistent play of late, and Rask's success, it's likely the rookie will get the nod for the majority of the final seven regular-season games.

"No doubt when you look at Timmy's last game, he was extremely good, and we expected the same out of him tonight," Julien said.

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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