BOSTON – It was pretty much a forgettable night for Florida Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas.
The 39-year-old probably envisioned his first performance in TD Garden as a visiting player to go a little differently after winning two Vezina Trophies and a Conn Smythe Trophy as a key member of the Boston Bruins.
But instead Thomas coughed a season-high six goals in a 6-2 win by the Bruins at TD Garden that pushed the B’s to 5-0-1 in their last six games, and dropped Thomas to 14-15-3 on the season. At least Thomas was able to keep his sense of humor about the pasting after the game.
"I think I might’ve enjoyed myself watching the State of the Union more,” said Thomas, when asked if he had fun Tuesday night at TD Garden. “No, probably not.”
Thomas was under siege from the beginning moments of the game when the Bruins outshot the Panthers by a 19-8 margin in the first period, and he gave up two goals apiece in each of the three periods. He seemed to get a little more anxious in the crease as things went along, and couldn’t stop a Zdeno Chara point shot that bounced off his helmet before landing past the goal line.
Milan Lucic scored two goals on Thomas, and pushed one past him in the second period when the Panthers goalie couldn’t freeze the puck on a Matt Bartkowski point shot. Then there was a Shawn Thornton backhanded shelf goal that completely mystified the longtime Bruins netminder, who saw Thornton’s skill shots in practice during their five seasons playing together.
“The next whistle we had a shift down there and he said 'are you kidding me?'” said Thornton. “He was actually laughing; he was as surprised as I was I suppose.
“I don’t know if I ever scored a goal on him in five years in practice so that might have been my first right there. He seemed to stop me a lot in practice.”
Before, during and after the game Thomas seemed completely at ease with returning to the Boston scene where things ended strangely at the end of the 2011-12 season. The actual performance during the game certainly couldn’t have been very pleasurable, but he was serenaded with a warm ovation when he was announced in the Panthers starting lineup prior to puck drop.
Those cheers turned into “Thom-as” catcalls in the second and third period when things broke bad for the Panthers netminder, but he admitted to enjoying this first time playing against the Bruins in Boston.
“I felt very comfortable being in this building, and stuff. For me, I feel comfortable. Obviously, I didn’t feel as comfortable when they started getting 19 shots in the first period and a couple of goals going in,” said Thomas, who finished with 35 saves in the loss. “But I felt comfortable coming into the game. I actually felt very comfortable at the beginning of the game. And then all of the sudden the first goal kind of gets you on your heels.
“I know I’m on the Florida Panthers, obviously, right? I know I’m not on the Boston Bruins, and I’m happy where I’m at and I’m excited to be a part of that organization. But this still feels like a home arena to me, if that makes any sense.”
Perhaps now that he’s been welcomed back to TD Garden with open arms and played that first game against the Bruins, there will be full and complete closure for both the Bruins and Thomas as they continue moving in opposite directions. Chris Kelly said following Tuesday’s game that he hopes he sees Thomas in Boston someday “when they have a 20th reunion for the 2011 Stanley Cup team.”
That’s a sentiment shared by many that remember the goaltender standing on his head during that successful Cup run as White House snubs and bizarre political Facebook posts fade further and further from memory.