COLUMBUS It was far from a textbook victory for the Bruins over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. All one needs to do is look at the rare goaltending switch that took place in the Bs 5-3 victory over the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Claude Julien made the bold decision to pull Tim Thomas after two periods and go with Tuukka Rask for the final 20 minutes. The game was tied 3-3 at the time of the swap.
Weve played five games in eight nights, were a pretty tired group, said Julien. We just had to fight through it and we did just that.
It worked like a charm for the Bruins, who were now battling without their two best players (Thomas yanked from the game and Chara out with a leg injury) and putting together one of the grittiest wins theyll have all season.
It was originally thought that Rask might be the goaltender of choice when the schedule for the week was put together, but Julien opted for Thomas with the Bs in the middle of a two-game losing streak.
Thomas made 22 saves in the first 40 minutes and kept the Bruins in a 3-3 tie, but it was also readily apparent that the 37-year-old goaltender was fighting the puck more than usual.
Almost none of Thomas stops were clean glove saves, and the third goal surrendered to the Blue Jackets was a soft-serve special. R.J. Umberger was freed into the offensive zone with some speed after a long outlet pass from Sami Pahlsson, but defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was with Umberger every step of the way.
The Bs defenseman forced Umberger toward an outside lane and the Blue Jackets forward could only managed a backhander attempt toward the Bruins net. The shot somehow trickled through Thomas pads and allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the game late in the second period after an early Zdeno Chara bomb handed the Bruins a one-goal lead.
The Bs goaltender let out a stick-waving show of exasperation after the Umberger goal as if he knew he should have stopped that one.
Combine the Umberger score with a power play goal allowed when Thomas had taken himself out the play with his penalty kill unit scrambling in front of him and Julien had seen enough of the roaming Thomas between the pipes.
Timmy didnt look as comfortable tonight as weve seen him before and a couple of goals went through, said Julien. It was a gut feeling from the coachs perspective. Timmy is as consistent as Ive ever seen a goalie. In my five years Ive maybe pulled him two or three times in all of those years at the most. Thats how consistent hes been.
Thomas didnt stop to address the performance with the media following the feel-good victory.
Rask must have been shocked to get the call headed into the third period, but he didnt act it out on the ice. It was particularly surprising given that a Milan Lucic tripping call left the Bs and Rask in penalty kill mode right off the bat. But the Finnish goaltender came in out of the cold and made all 13 of his save chances while improving to 5-4-1 on the season and 2-0-0 against the Blue Jackets.
I was a little surprised, but youve got to be ready. That just proves it again. Youve just got to try and stay focused for 60 minutes, Rask. If you get shots and get your sweat going and start to feel good about yourself it helps. Today it turned out to be a good period for me for and we squeezed out the win. That was great.
Thomas got pulled from a tie game, and you just want to go out there and not lose the game.
Its pretty clear the Bruins arent engaging in any goaltender controversy as its the first time Thomas has been pulled since last season on March 3 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was very rarely pulled before that memorable defeat prior to last years Cup run.
Everybody is entitled to one of those games, said Julien. I didnt think he was bad, but it just didnt look like he was comfortable in the net. So we went with Tuukka in the third.
Julien rolled the dice in a big way going with Rask, and it was one of several flawless calls that allowed the Bs to eke out a much-needed victory.