Thomas gets his 10th straight with 45-save gem

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Thomas gets his 10th straight with 45-save gem

PITTSBURGH Tim Thomas broke some of the cardinal rules of a winning streak, but it didnt matter.

Thomas changed back to his normal goalie mask and away from his Movember Mustache mask that hes set up a charity raffle to auction off to the highest bidder and the goalie mask hed been wearing for nearly his entire November winning streak.

But none of the superstitious stuff seems to matter when youre as good as Thomas and the Bruins are right now. Thomas was solid for most of the night and spectacular when he had to be while making 45 saves en route to a 3-1 victory over the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center.

Early on it was like they were more trying to be opportunistic and trying to make plays, said Thomas. Once we got ahead by a little bit they started throwing everything at the net rather than trying to make the perfect play.

Its been pretty nice to be a part of this team over the last month. There have been times when we fell out of exactly how we wanted to play, but at the same time individual guys have had big nights to bail us out.

Perfect play or puck-throwing didnt seem to matter. Thomas was stopping it either way.

For the Bs and Thomas the victory over the Pens was validation that theyre essentially in a battle with themselves to see how good they can be.

The Bruins made mistakes, of course, against a game Pittsburgh team, but they also overcame a pair of 5-on-3 Pitt power plays and a late surge by the Penguins spurred on by Matt Cookes third period goal. Thomas stopped eight shots when Pittsburgh was on the man advantage, and perhaps none was bigger than a point blank stop on Chris Kunitz without any hint of a rebound.

But Thomas never broke down, and became the first Bs goaltender to win 10 consecutive games since Andy Moog in 1993. Thomas did it all while moving to second in the NHL with a .940 save percentage in 18 games this season. Thomas trails only St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott still saving pucks at a .945 clip, but the Bs goaltender is the only one of the two puck-stoppers thats proven he can play at this level all season.

Our penalty kill guys did great and our goalie made the big save when we needed it, said Claude Julien. At the stage of the game where we killed off the 5-on-3 we could have easily let them back into it. We positioned ourselves well and didnt make it easy for them.

Thomas made key saves early on when things were still tight, and showed plenty of evidence he was in his goaltending zone while stopping a season-high 17 shots in the second period. He tracked a puck off Kunitzs stick that ricocheted off Zdeno Charas skate and seemed destined to be trouble and made a calm pad save.

Thomas gobbled up an Arron Asham one-timer from the slot on a play that developed late, and could have caught Thomas by surprise. He held the post on a bull rush by Joe Vitale late in the third period that spurred Gregory Campbell to drop the gloves protecting his franchise goaltender.

Thomas said the teams consistent excellence has allowed him to relax at points during the 15 games since the Bruins decided to dominate the NHL, and that means hes not taxing his 37-year-old body like he might have in the past.

Its been easier mentally because you have confidence your team is going to find a way to come through. Weve done it for so long that were really proving it, said Thomas. If the team isnt playing well sometime the goalie can make the mistake of putting the pressure on himself or trying to win it all by himself.

But the team playing the way it has over the last five weeks a goalie doesnt think that way. He just needs to be ready to help out if called upon.

That means Thomas should have plenty in the tank when it matters most for the Bruins, and thats an interesting proposition for a hockey team that looks better than the one he led to a Cup title through dominant play between the pipes.

Talking Points from the Bruins OT winner

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Talking Points from the Bruins OT winner

GOLD STAR: Solid night’s work from Ryan Spooner, who finished with the OT game-winning strike and was solid throughout the game as the de facto No. 1 center. He had four shots on net, six generated shot attempts and won 12-of-19 face offs as he continues to improve in that area while training camp rolls along. Spooner is trying to hold onto the No. 3 center spot in the lineup despite the addition of David Backes via free agency, and Friday night’s big boy performance with speed, playmaking and skill showed exactly what his potential can be when he puts it all together. It was also a nice little bounce-back from an up-and-down game on Wednesday night against the same Detroit team when he struggled in the face off circle and was part of a team-wide malaise.

BLACK EYE: It wasn’t necessarily a bad night for Brian Ferlin, but it was more of the invisible variety with just a registered hit and one face-off taken in 13 minutes of ice time. The forward earned some NHL time with the Bruins a couple of years, has battled concussion woes over the last year plus and is trying to push his way back into the crowded forward picture during this training camp. While he certainly showed some toughness and skill around the net a couple of years and didn’t seem shy about going there on Friday night, the results just weren’t there and Ferlin didn’t have much of a presence in the game. In general it was a pretty decent performance for the Bruins, so Ferlin’s game was quiet more than problematic.

TURNING POINT: Credit the Bruins coaching staff for switching up the lines in the third period, and that sparked the offense a bit after zero goals through the first 40 minutes against Detroit. Zach Senyshyn was moved with Danton Heinen and Riley Nash, and they became a threat in the third period before Heinen broke through for the game-tying goal from his knees. That score allowed the B’s to push things into overtime, and then Spooner made it a quick extra session by snapping home a shot from the slot after a good effort from Joe Morrow down low. It all was made possible by the adjustment to the lines that took place between the second and the third periods.

HONORABLE MENTION: Joe Morrow is battling to hold onto his NHL roster spot with the Bruins, and that is absolutely underscored by the news that Christian Ehrhoff is being brought to Boston on a PTO. So it was expected that the young D-man would come out with something a little extra after a mediocre performance in his preseason debut, and the left shot D-man was an impact player in the win for the Black and Gold. Morrow dropped the gloves with young tough guy Givani Smith in the second period as part of a B’s group that played with a little bit of an edge on Friday night, and then he won a battle down low in overtime to set up the Ryan Spooner game-winner. Morrow had two hits, two shot attempts, the assist and the fight in 19:48 of ice time, and showed that he’s ready to battle in camp to hold onto his spot.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 – the number of goals in two preseason games thus far for Danton Heinen, who scored important game-tying goals in both instances in the shootout loss to the Blue Jackets and Friday night’s overtime win against the Wings.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “The compete level, especially when he got down 4-0 [on Wednesday night], I don’t think it was high enough. So we talked about it, and we expect a better effort for sure.” –Ryan Spooner on Friday morning prior to going out and snatching the win away from the Red Wings in Detroit with an OT game-winner. 

Ehrhoff signs a PTO with the B's after World Cup

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Ehrhoff signs a PTO with the B's after World Cup

The Bruins will add another veteran defenseman to their training camp group fresh off the World Cup of Hockey as German D-man Christian Ehrhoff is headed to Boston on a PTO (professional tryout agreement). CSN has confirmed that Ehrhoff has indeed agreed to a PTO with the Bruins, and he'll report to the team sometime this weekend.

The 34-year-old Ehrhoff had three assists in six World Cup games for Team Europe, and had two goals and 10 points in 48 games for the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks last season while clearly starting to slow down a bit. He’s clearly no longer the player that averaged 14 goals and 47 points for the Vancouver Canucks from 2009-2011, and is another left-shot defenseman to add to a team that already has Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug.

But it behooved the Bruins to bring in at least one “name” veteran D-man on a tryout basis during this training camp with so many needs for upgrades on the back end, and with a host of young players that might not be ready for prime time. This might also be a warning sign for young veteran Joe Morrow, a left shot D-man that has struggled a bit in training camp after coming off an erratic first full season at the NHL level.

Clearly the Bruins need more than Ehrhoff, however, even if he’s somehow re-energized with the Bruins after playing pretty well in the World Cup. The Kings were down enough on his game to put him through waivers last season, but he was a top-4 defenseman for the previous eight seasons for San Jose, Vancouver, Buffalo and Pittsburgh prior to getting bounced around between the Kings and Blackhawks last season.

The added bonus with taking a look at Ehrhoff is that there’s no risk associated with a PTO, and the Bruins can simply walk away with no cost if the B’s coaching staff decides he’s not a good fit for the group in Boston. On the other hand, bringing in a Kris Russell-type would cost a great deal in terms of money and term in a free agent contract, and it might not benefit the Black and Gold club in the end result.