Commentary

Thomas saves the day -- again

Bruins goalie and team's penalty kill continue to frustrate Lightning

Updated: May 24, 2011, 9:33 AM ET
By James Murphy | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- After blowing a 3-0 lead in the final two periods of Game 4 in Tampa to lose 5-3, the Bruins came out surprisingly flat in the opening frame of Game 5. They were out-shot 14-4 and they simply did not play with the intensity needed in a pivotal Game 5 with the series tied at two. But amazingly as they were booed off the ice at the first intermission, the Bruins were trailing only 1-0. That's because, once again, Tim Thomas (33 saves) was in the midst of another Superman performance and the penalty kill was shutting down the Tampa Bay power play with two big kills in the first.

Thomas and the penalty kill had given their team a chance to win. Following two more huge kills and a point-blank save on Steve Downie 1:19 into the second period, the Bruins took that chance and ran with it, scoring two second-period goals and adding an empty-netter in the third for a 3-1 win and a 3-2 series lead.

[+] EnlargeTim Thomas
AP Photo/Charles KrupaTim Thomas had 33 saves on Monday, many of them highlight-worthy, prompting Lightning coach Guy Boucher to say afterward: "We are still trying to figure out the [Tim] Thomas enigma."

"They had some good opportunities and Timmy made some great saves for us, so we'll take being down by one goal not playing our best hockey in the first," forward Chris Kelly said. "You always try to take the positives out of things, and being down by only one after getting out-shot by a large margin was not the best scenario but a scenario that we would take and move forward."

But if not for Thomas' heroics and the penalty kill getting the job done, the Bruins would be heading to Tampa Bay facing elimination and not on the verge of their first Stanley Cup berth since 1990.

Horton, who took two penalties leading to Lightning power plays, credited the penalty killers and, of course, Thomas, who continues to steal games when his teammates struggle.

"As you could see after all my penalties, we just got the momentum," Horton joked. "We could feel it and I think everyone felt it and we just kind of took it from there. But yeah, we were struggling on the power play but we knew hopefully that the penalty kill steps up and it sure did tonight. Timmy was great and he made some unbelievable saves and that's what you need to win the games."

Milan Lucic, who assisted on Horton's goal, credited the Vezina Trophy candidate for once again standing on his head.

There's no two ways about it, that's an amazing goaltender that keeps on doing what he has been doing the entire year and the entire playoffs.

-- Guy Boucher, Lightning coach talking about Tim Thoms

"Yeah, the goalie steps up and makes some big saves like that and in the second he made some pretty big saves like that too," Lucic said. "Even he said himself, after that first goal went in, he kind of relaxed a little bit, which is kind of funny because you would think you'd tighten up a bit. But for him, he just kind of relaxed and he knew he needed to get he job done and to not let in another goal. And he did that, he stood on his head for us today."

Thomas' aforementioned save on Downie during the Lightning power play to start the second was surely a momentum shifter for the Bruins, but his diving stick save on Downie 9:20 into the third period to preserve the Bruins' 2-1 lead at the time was a momentum and game saver and may go down as the save of the playoffs.

"We were on the bench and we were like 'Wow! It's pretty special when your goalie makes those kinds of saves' and it really picks you up. He [Downie] had an empty net and he never gives up. That's what's good about him and he's always in the net trying to stop pucks and that's a good quality for a goalie."

Kelly was still in awe but not surprised that Thomas made the stop.

"I didn't realize the save he made there until I saw it on the replay," Kelly said. "That's just a phenomenal save. It's unbelievable some of the saves that Timmy makes. He's a pleasure to have. I think every guy in this room cannot say enough good things about him."

Kelly along with Rich Peverley, Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg pulled off quite the feat as well, remaining on the ice for 1:50 of the second Tampa Bay power play in the first period. It was just another example of how hard the penalty kill worked to keep the Lightning from padding their lead.

"Yeah it was huge," Bergeron said of the penalty kill and that kill in particular. "Our penalty kill, like I said, has been great, especially this game. It's been one reason why we won tonight, the way that we competed and the way that we played out there even though there's one penalty kill where [Chris] Kelly and I can't remember who stayed on the ice for almost two minutes but still, they didn't give out much and they found a way to get the puck out."

After watching his team squander their early chances to head home with the 3-2 series lead, Lightning head coach Guy Boucher praised Thomas for once again coming to his team's rescue. He said that if the Lightning are to force a Game 7, the power play needs to step up and his players have to solve Thomas.

"I think what happened was that our power play we got a little too cute and if you look at the replays on the few times, it was just an inch away," Boucher said. "So if you score that second goal, obviously you feel a little different. I think it is more the second-period power plays that might have gotten to us.

"If you want to beat that goaltender, you know, I guess at one point the shot was 30-12 or something like that, close to that, I guess we are going to need 55. There's no two ways about it, that's an amazing goaltender that keeps on doing what he has been doing the entire year and the entire playoffs."

Boucher then later added: "Our top guys have been doing everything they can and they are no different than the rest of the team and we are still trying to figure out the [Tim] Thomas enigma."

James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.

James Murphy

Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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