KANATA, Ont. It was clearly established before this whole All-Star shindig got started that Tim Thomas would have the third period.
After all Thomas was going for his fourth consecutive All-Star game win at the Scotiabank Place home of the Ottawa Senators. There was also the small matter of the 37-year-old goalie being utterly incapable of slowing down in a meaningless exhibition game, and that trait making him the best possible closer for one of these type contests.
Thats exactly what happened for Thomas while stopping 18 shots in the final 20 minutes of Team Charas 12-9 win over Team Alfredsson a victory the Bs goaltender didnt even realize he wanted so fervently until he began getting a game sweat going on Sunday afternoon.
But by the time he stoned Daniel Alfredsson on a breakaway in the third period while the Sens hero was going for a much-anticipated hat trick, Thomas had the victory in his sights.
As has been the case when wins and losses are in the balance no matter what the contest, Thomas wasnt about to let things go.
Im very happy with the end result. Going into it I was shooting for four wins, but I didnt really realize how much I wanted it until we got into it, said Thomas after the All-Star festivities were over. Then my team came up big and scored a couple of goals early for me. Then I said lets do thisI might as well.
It was Zdeno Charas rifle shot in the third period that ultimately provided the difference-maker in the game.
Claude Julien said his other two All-Star goaltenders, Carey Price and Jimmy Howard, were more than happy to step aside for Thomas to chase another All-Star win and the duo actually played rockpaperscissors to determine which order each of them would play the first two periods. So that left it all up to Thomas, and he wasnt at all caught up in allowing Daniel Alfredsson his hat trick in front of an appreciative home crowd for sentimental purposes.
That willingness to give in and give up arent present in Thomas DNA. Instead the Bruins goaltender turned away barrage after barrage from Team Alfredsson in the defense-free game that could have easily turned on one slippery puck.
A forgiving post also bailed out Thomas, and cancelled out any raining of the hats on ice for Alfredsson.
I wasnt thinking about Alfredssons hat trick. I just didnt want the other team to get any closer because all of a sudden the way goals get scored in these gamesboom, boom, boomyou could get three goals scored in a minute-and-a-half, said Thomas. I didnt want to let anybody score. It wasnt anything against Alfie, I guess.
Chara has seen that competitive fire burning in Thomas eyes far too often, and recognized it when he spotted it in the third period. Thats when the Bs Captain knew his team was going to win and Thomas was going to walk away with another All-Star W.
As we were going toward the end you could see that guys wanted to win. I didnt say a thing, said Chara. Thats Timmy. Hes very competitive. You cant blame him. Thats the only way he can play. Otherwise he wont be really as effective. Hes always competitive. Thats just him.
It was vintage Tim Thomas, and it was also classic Tim Thomas after hed been held under heavy scrutiny via the public microscope following his decision to skip the White House. He felt threatened and backed into a corner by the virulent public and media reaction. Thats normally when the goaltender-as-survivor comes out strongest and most defiant. Thats what happened in Ottawa despite the exhibition game environs.
Instead of getting bailed out by a team piling up goals in an All-Star game, Thomas was feeling it between the pipes just a little bit. He was truly in his happy place again where didnt have to do anything aside from stopping pucks cold.
Ive worked hard in all of the All-Star wins. Last year, actually, in Carolina I couldnt get a rhythm in the game. The team really carried me last year and they didnt have to this year, said Thomas. They got me six goals in a period rather than the three that everybody had been averaging. But this year I felt good. I felt like if I worked hard I could save a few shots that people wouldnt expect me to save.
Thomas was able to get through the attention of All-Star game weekend with his head held high -- and his teammates, ownership and coaching staff firmly backing him up as an individual. The on-ice performance was the one more piece on Sunday afternoon against the best players in the world, though they were admittedly playing the worse defense in the world.
But the final piece comes this week when Thomas inevitably jumps back into action for the Bruins at TD Garden. Hell get his first reaction, positive or negative, from the hometown fan base thats always loved him, and hes ready for rabid cheers or lusty boos. It may be a hope for the best, expect the worst situation for Thomas, but hes ready for anything after a turbulent week.
I havent put too much thought into it. Ill let the fans make their own decision and then deal with the consequences whatever they may be, said Thomas.
The betting here: a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe winning performance in last years playoffs will trump most peoples personal politics, but both Thomas and the world will know for sure in a couple of days.