By Mary Paoletti
BOSTON -- "With Tim Thomas, anything is possible."
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was not exaggerating in his postgame remarks. Boston beat Montreal 2-1 in a double overtime grind and the win was largely owed to the Bruins goalie, who stopped 45 shots in 89 minutes of ice time on Saturday night. Montreal netminder Carey Price upped the ante by making 49 saves of his own.
"I've said before that I'm not really playing against Carey Price so to speak," Thomas said. "Tonight, I was in a game in a way. Whenever he made saves, I had to make sure that I made the saves because it was such a tight game."
Other than a third-period pair that made the score 1-1, nobody could get to the goalies.
But while Thomas's teammates are impressed, none are surprised.
"We wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for him," said Brad Marchand.
That's just Timmy.
Thomas is a Vezina trophy finalist for the second time in three seasons (he won the award in 2009). He is also one year off of hip surgery. The fact that Thomas did not enter this season as the No. 1 netminder now seems only like a bad dream. How? A 2.00 GAA (NHL best), .938 save percentage (NHL best), nine shutouts (one more than Price in 15 fewer games) and 35 wins do well to cloud a sub-par 2010.
So, excuse Thomas's teammates for their shrugs when asked about yet another brilliant performance.
"It's run of the mill, I guess," Andrew Ference laughed. "I mean, really, what do you say? We still get excited by some of the saves, but he does them every game. It's great. It's very reassuring to know that he's back there, to bail you out of some good plays."
That idea of reassurance and comfort rippled all around the locker room after Game 5.
"When you have a goalie who knows he's great -- and we know he's great -- he's going to go out there and give us a chance," said Ference. "It's a good feeling to have a guy like that."
Don't mistake their trust for complacency; the Black and Gold do not take Tim Thomas for granted.
"It's calming to have him behind us," Dennis Seidenberg said. "Having him in the back, always saving us games left and right, is a privilege. "
A privilege they enjoyed for the better part of Saturday night.
Boston matched their blocked shots with defensive breakdowns. Joe Halpren's goal -- the only one Thomas gave up -- was all but a disaster. Tomas Kaberle kicked things off with a soft attempt to clear the puck in the corner. Instead of sending it along the boards, Kaberle shuttled the puck to Adam McQuaid, who was swarmed with Canadiens and under the gun behind the net. Halpren had broken free of Gregory Campbell and intercepted McQuaid's pass. Thomas was left out to dry; Halpren buried one in the back of Boston's net.
The Bruins' lead was swallowed by a 1-1 tie for the rest of regulation.
"It was a matter of not giving up," Thomas said of the extra sessions. "Just staying with it and waiting for opportunities. Hopefully one of those opportunities goes in."
Montreal had a strong chance in the second overtime.
Less than five minutes in, another Bruins misfire turned into an opportunity on the other end. Johnny Boychuk took a shot on Price that sent the defenseman down to the ice. Price made the save and kicked the rebound out to Brian Gionta, which ignited a breakaway. Boychuk raced after the play but couldn't catch up, leaving Andrew Ference to handle a two-pronged attack by Gionta and Travis Moen.
Gionta passed to Moen; Moen got it back to the Canadiens captain.
"As soon as it left my stick, I thought it was going in," Gionta said.
He was stonewalled. Thomas gathered his speed and pushed post-to-post to rob Gionta of the brilliant bid. The save energized a tense crowd in the TD Garden. It also inspired the Bruins.
"We got into it," Ference said. "It was a great, great save. That's a hard save to make."
Nathan Horton's game-winner came less than four minutes later. How's that for a two-way street? Thomas works for his team, and they want to work for him.
"It made us think, 'Okay, let's win it now,'" Seidenberg said. "'He saved us from the loss and let's just do our best and repay him by winning, by scoring the next goal. Thankfully, it worked."
Maybe that's where Thomas finds his own comfort.