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.