Notes: Thomas comes up big when it matters most


Notes: Thomas comes up big when it matters most

By Joe Haggerty

BOSTON Peter Chiarelli invoked the name Grant Fuhr at the end of the Bruins' series against Montreal, and he meant it as a great compliment.

The Bruins GMwas talking about the former Edmonton Oilers goaltender when looking at the way Tim Thomas was performing in the playoffs, praising Thomas for his Fuhr-like ability to be at his best when it mattered most. Thomas might give up a goal or two in these playoffs and he might not end with the gaudy .938 save percentage he brandished during the regular season -- but Thomas is consistently rising to the occasion at the right moments during the postseason.

This was true Tuesday night, even though on the face of it -- five goals allowed -- it wouldn't appear Thomas played a big role in the Bruins' 6-5, Game 2 victory that evened the series at 1-1.

But though his leaky defense had a lot of issues in front of him, Thomas hung in and made 36 saves for the win. And he was at his best while making 13 show-stopping saves in the third period.

He made two textbook stops against former teammate Marty St. Louis, and had Marc-Andre Bergeron snapping his stick out of frustration with another save. That one came with roughly four minutes to go, and came one period after Thomas' big breakaway stop on Ryan Malone that immediately turned into a Tyler Seguin sniper goal at the other end of the ice.Given the troubles that guys like Johnny Boychuk (minus-3) and even Zdeno Chara were having in front of Thomas on Tuesday night, the performance between the pipes was every bit as noteworthy as Seguin's scoring binge in the second period. Though it was ruled a goal given the NHL's rules that play continues on scoring chances even if a goaltender has lost his mask -- as Thomas did when he collided with Adam McQuaid in front of the net -- the image of a bloodied Thomas tracking a puck after he was drilled with a Dominic Mooreshot when his mask came off is the epitome of playoff hockey.

I think experience helps in those situations, said Thomas of hanging tough despite the high number of goals allowed. Experience helps you to learn that each time a goal goes in, youve just got to put it behind you. Youve got to start focusing on the next one. If you start thinking about the goals that just went in, its going to lead to other goals, and its not going to be helpful.

With our big second period there I knew we had a big lead going into the third period, and the plan wasnt to let them get close at all. But when it gets to be 6-4 and 6-5, when youre a younger goaltender, it might be hard for you to keep your focus."

Dennis Seidenberg was quietly brilliant as he put together a pair of assists in 31:25 of ice time and managed a great pass on David Krejcis goal in the second period. Seidenberg led all Bs in ice time, picked up an assist on Bostons first power-play goal of the series, and was consistently taking good offensive chances in the attack zone.

Hes a solid defenseman. When you look at the end of the game, we probably used him a lot because of the way the score tightened at the end, said coach Claude Julien.

Julien wasn't altogether pleased with his team's performance, as the five goals allowed would attest.

Just because we won the game tonight doesnt mean were happy with it," he said.

"I thought we did a lot of good things without Patrice Bergeron, who missed his second game because of the mild concussion he suffered in Game 4 against the Flyers. Our faceoffs were much better tonight, we played with the puck a lot more . . . In the first couple of periods we were putting a lot of pressure on them in their own end.

"But then again, I dont think anybody in that dressing room is extremely happy with our game because we got sloppy at times. And we turned pucks over and werent strong in the third period. Theres no doubt we were hanging on. And thank God time was on our side and we came up with the win . . . We didnt do a very good job in the third period, but those first wins in the playoffs in every series are always the toughest. And we got that under our belt now and hopefully we get better . . .

"So we need to regroup here, take the win for what it is in the playoffs, and know that we got to get better."A rough night for Boychuk, who was directly responsible for three of Tampa's five goals on the ice and never looked like he recovered after being slow to react on Adam Hall's first goal just 13 seconds into the game. Boychuk needs to be better against a team like Tampa that can hurt you once they get rolling.

The Lightning scored the first goal for the seventh straight game, but fell to 8-1 when scoring first in the playoffs.

Bruins center Marc Savard, who missed most of the season because of post-concussion syndrome, watched the game from a luxury box with his two sons. Bergeron sat with them for a large portion of the night.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick smiled and waved to the crowd when shown on the video screen beside girlfriend Linda Holliday.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

BOSTON -- One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Much like Charlie Brown was never going to actually kick the football before Lucy pulled it away, it feels like the Bruins are never again going to beat the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. They failed again Saturday night, never holding a lead at any point as they dropped their ninth straight home game to the Habs, 4-2.

Bruins-Canadiens games in Boston have become the hockey version of 'Groundhog Day', as the same patterns emerge over and over again: Montreal's speed forces the Bruins into mistakes with the puck; Habs players draw the B’s into taking bad penalties; Carey Price dominates in goal. It's been that way ever since the last Bruin victory over Montreal at the Garden, on Jan. 12, 2012. To put it perspective, Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin were still Bruins back then.

Saturday night's loss, though, had a little added twist: The B's second-period woes, such a problem last year, reared its ugly head again.

“[The second period was] terrible, and that’s where it really hurt us," said Claude Julien. "I thought we played well (in the first period) . . . But the second period came back to haunt us. We were flat coming out. We didn’t make good outlet passes, and we spent way too much time in our own end, and because of that, it gave them some momentum. And by the end of it, we cheated ourselves a little bit, and pucks ended up in the back of our net . . .

"[When] you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team. So we needed to be better . . . [We] shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes, and we can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens."

The Bruins were essentially done for after a couple of very typical Boston-Montreal plays went against them in the middle 20 minutes.

The first was a defensive coverage breakdown in the D-zone that allowed both Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher to operate with time and space. Five B’s players simply watched as Gallagher smoked a one-timer from the outside of the left circle that eluded Anton Khudobin.

Then, later in the period, John-Michael Liles misread a play where he pinched deep in the offensive zone and couldn’t control the puck. As a result, Alexander Radulov worked a 2-on-1 with Phillip Danault to skilled perfection on a typical Habs transition play.

"I think our second period has got to be better overall," said Patrice Bergeron. "We talked about them having a good forecheck . . . [but] we didn’t make the easy plays too many times. When you do that, it creates turnovers and you spend more time in your zone than you’d like to."

From there, it was just more of the same. Playing with the lead, Montreal was able to neutralize Bergeron and Brad Marchand; Bergeron never got a shot on goal. Price came up big when he had to, shutting down a couple of Ryan Spooner chances.

And Bruin weaknesses were exposed, things Julien and the coaching staff may have to address. It looks like it’s time to move on from the Joe Morrow/Torey Krug defense pairing; it's simply not working. (Krug, in particular, was a minus-3 and made mistakes all over the ice.) They also may need to switch things up with the forwards, as they're getting zippo offensively from their second and third lines.

To their credit, the Bruins never packed it in. They hung in and made plays in the third period to keep the game close, right up to the 6-on-3 advantage they had at the end. But there are no consolation prizes or moral victories in the Boston-Montreal rivalry, especially when the Habs have made it so one-sided.

To be a true rivalry, you need equal rivals. And the Bruins, especially at home, aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Bruins need to 'find a way to start playing with a lead'

Bruins need to 'find a way to start playing with a lead'

BOSTON -- There’s only so long that a team can hope to thrive, or even survive, in the NHL if they’re constantly chasing the game on the scoreboard, and chasing the puck after digging themselves a hole. The Bruins have been that team in the first couple of weeks during the regular season, and made it five times in five games that they’ve given up the game’s first goal in an eventual 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.

It’s a pattern that is long past getting old to Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who can’t seem to play the front-runner this season despite three comebacks that have allowed for a 3-2-0 record overall this season.

“I hope it’s not a habit. It’s certainly not what we’re looking for, but there’s no doubt. I think it’s pretty obvious that with the amount of games we’ve played, five games, we haven’t scored first,” said Julien. “We talked about that this morning, trying to get that first goal, and it hasn’t happened yet.”

The start to the game wasn’t really the problem on Saturday night as it’s been a couple of times this season. Instead the Bruins enjoyed a handful of quality scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes against the Habs, but couldn’t come through and finish off those plays when it might have meant an early lead.

Instead it lead to what Julien termed a “terrible” second period that was flat, full of mistakes and ended with the B’s trailing Montreal by a couple of goals. The Bruins scratched and clawed their way to making it a one-goal game in the third period, but that was as close as the Black and Gold would get in losing their ninth straight home game to the arch-rival Canadiens.

“It’s kind of been a story about how things are going for us this far, we’ve got to find a way to start playing with a lead. If you don’t capitalize on your chances, you see what happens when you come out [flat] in the second period,” said Torey Krug, who finished a game-worst minus-3 in the loss for the Bruins. “We had another poor second period and you know it’s kind of… you got to make sure that we put our hand on that and it doesn’t become a thing for the team this year. You see that when you don’t capitalize on chances early, that’s what’s going to happen.”

It’s been a positive development that the Bruins have shown the willingness and backbone to fight back into games after early deficits, and they showed that quality once again on Saturday night by scoring a couple of goals in the third period to keep things close. But the Bruins would be best served if they can start lighting the lamp a little earlier in these games, and see how the other half lives by playing with a comfortable lead every once in a while.