PRAGUE -- The Boston Bruins answered their coach's call for a better effort and team defense on Sunday, bouncing back from their 5-2 loss Saturday with a 3-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Plagued by turnovers and a lackluster transition game on Saturday, the Bruins looked like a completely different team on Sunday, suffocating the Coyotes' neutral-zone attack.
But the biggest story of the game had to be the statement that Tim Thomas made in his first start since last April's regular-season finale.
The Bruins got a spectacular performance from Thomas, who made 29 saves for his first shutout since March 27 and let the hockey world know that his hip is fine after offseason surgery.
After the game though, Thomas was quick to credit his teammates and the way they played in front of him.
"We needed these two points tonight to leave a good taste in our mouth and make this trip successful," Thomas said. "The whole trip's been so fantastic up until the loss yesterday and it sure feels good to get those two points in the bank. Now we can go home with our chins up and feel good about ourselves."
Thomas, who was relegated to backup with the emergence of Tuukka Rask, also had to feel a sense of redemption after receiving his share of criticism and being the subject of plenty of trade rumors since the trade deadline last season.
"It's been a long road," Thomas said. "It feels great to be fortunate enough to get a shutout right off the bat and have the team play that well in front of you, get all the bounces and be that comfortable myself. It couldn't have gone much better."
Thomas acknowledged being nervous during the opening faceoff, then had to fight to be sharp with the Bruins holding the Coyotes to one shot for about the first nine minutes of each of the first two periods.
"I was nervous, of course," Thomas said. "I wanted to get off to a good start and our team got off to a good start. So I didn't get a lot of action at first and it became a mental battle to be ready when the time came. I was able to deal with it pretty well."
The whole team was thrilled to see Thomas regain his form and prove his dependability.
"Obviously he's had a long summer with the hip surgery and he came in and played great," said Mark Recchi. "He looked great in the Liberec game as well and it's great to see him come in and play well and get the shutout in the first game."
Coach Claude Julien has been preaching throughout the offseason that he has two No. 1 goalies in Thomas and Rask; Thomas made him look good Sunday.
"I think we saw a lot of the Timmy that we are used to seeing," Julien said. "He battles so hard and even when he was acrobatic -- like we're used to seeing him -- and when he's playing like that is when he's at his best.
"I thought he had a real solid game and couldn't be happier. I'm sure Tuukka's standing there wishing he had the same team in front of him as Timmy tonight because our guys played well. But Timmy still had to come up and make some big saves and I thought he played well."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.