NEWARK Tim Thomas was mediocre in the loss to Tampa Bay, in the words of his coach Claude Julien.
Thomas is a lot of things an inspirational hockey success story, inarguably the best goaltender in the world and an interesting dude off the ice, to name but a few but mediocre really isnt one of them on a regular basis.
So the Bs coach went right back to the 37-year-old goaltender Thursday night in New Jersey, and Thomas repaid Juliens faith with 30 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Devils at Prudential Center. The win snapped a personal two-game losing streak for Thomas and washed away some of the sting from four goals allowed in Tampa Bay earlier this week.
The choice of Thomas or red-hot Tuukka Rask might have raised an eyebrow or two when the pick was dropped in Jersey, but there was little doubt about the correct decision when the Vezina Trophy winner was in the middle of stopping 13 pucks in the second period.
Tim is the kind of goalie that will bounce back from a mediocre game. It wasnt a bad game, but he knows and we know that it was a mediocre game against Tampa Bay for him, said Julien. Were used to seeing him being a stellar goaltender, and you understand the way he is. You give him an opportunity to get back in there as soon as possible, and show the kind of game that he can play.
That was huge for us. He played a solid game and made the huge saves when we needed him. The guys also played very well in front of him.
Thomas was beaten on one play in the first period when Petr Sykora poked a shot between his pads after a defensive breakdown around the net, but that was it for the Bs puck-stopper. He got stronger as the game advanced and was the beneficiary of much-better defense in front of him than the turnstile bunch that broke down multiple times against the Lightning.
Never was Thomas better than at the end of the second period with his team down 1-0 and New Jersey threatening for more. Kurtis Foster got Thomas moving with a mammoth slap shot from the left point, and the rebound went directly to David Clarkson in front of the Boston net. Clarkson let it fly as Thomas moved way out of the crease to challenge him, and the gritty Devils forward shook his head in exasperation when his scoring bid died in Thomas glove.
I was thinking if I couldnt hold the fort there in the second period that it would have been tough for us to come back and get two in the third period, said Thomas. We talked about needing to be better and needing to go out there and find a way to get the job done. But theres a big difference between talking about it and doing it. But the good thing about this team is we actually do it.
Theres no shame in that as four teams full of players were readily admitting after last seasons epic playoff run. For Julien the solid Thomas effort now frees the Bs coaching staff up to tap Tuukka Rask for the Saturday showdown against the New York Rangers, and a Thomas return to Philadelphia where hes routinely dominated over the years.