Thomas not a distraction for B's vs. Predators

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Thomas not a distraction for B's vs. Predators

BOSTON -- Nobody asked Tim Thomas about his Facebook page on Saturday.

That's the way it should have been.

The Bruins' 4-3 shootout win over the Nashville Predators at the TD Garden had nothing to do with political views or personal opinions revealed through social media outlets.

This was about hockey, which is exactly what Thomas so adamantly insisted after Thursday's practice at Ristuccia Arena, when he was peppered with questions about his latest Facebook comments on religious freedom.

"That has absolutely nothing to do with the Bruins or hockey," said Thomas on Thursday, before walking away from reporters when asked if he regretted the Facebook comments.

Bruins coach Claude Julien also insisted on Thursday that there were no issues inside the dressing room because of those comments, and that they will never mix politics with hockey.

All of that seemed to prove true on Saturday afternoon, as Thomas made two huge saves in the shootout to help seal the deal on the type of hard-fought win that some -- outside the Bruins organization -- thought the team would have trouble with, because their top goaltender was becoming a "distraction."

There were no distractions on Saturday with Thomas in net, as he picked up his 23rd win of the season.

He allowed three goals on only 22 shots in the win, but his two stops in the shootout helped give Boston two points on a day in which they nearly lost in regulation.

"It probably would have been a real tough loss had we not been able to come out with a win, with the way we played this afternoon," said Julien afterwards.

Thomas first stopped Sergei Kostitsyn on Nashville's first shootout attempt. Kostitsyn decked right at the last second, but Thomas extended his left pad to the left post and stuffed the Predators shifty forward.

Thomas then made a save on Martin Erat on Nashville's second attempt, and never had to make a third, as the Bruins scored two shootout goals to secure the win.

"I got fortunate on the first one, I think, that Kostitsyn couldn't lift it, because obviously I was taking away down low," said Thomas. "And the second one there, I also think I got a little bit fortunate, because the puck kind of bounced on Erat at the hashmarks, right in the area where you're going to decide whether to shoot or deke. And he had no option, really, except for to go with the way the puck went.

"Bergy scoring was huge for me, and then Bergy scoring that second one, so that i don't even have to make another save. I was very appreciative."

Patrice Bergeron scored the game-clinching goal in the shootout. He also scored the Bruins' first goal of the game, with four minutes left in the first period. It was a shorthanded goal. And any goaltender would be thrilled about that.

Thomas allowed a power-play goal in the second, and two even-strength goals in the third. But the Bruins kept the Predators' shot count low, which at times, can make it tough for a goaltender to get into a rhythm. And Thomas admitted that, at times on Saturday, it wasn't easy to keep that rhythm going -- especially in the second period, when Shea Weber's goal 7:32 in, was Nashville's first shot of the period.

"I was doing the best I could to mentally stay in it, like some of the little stuff like when you get out to play the puck can help keep you in the game," said Thomas. "So, I didn't feel that bad actually, through the first period.

"It got harder, as we went on," added Thomas. "We dominated so much in the early second period, that I didn't really get any action. So at that point it got harder and harder to get into a complete rhythm. But I was watching what was going on in front of me, and I was happy to see us controlling the play and getting the scoring chances. So it's fine if I don't get shots. It's my job to be ready when I do get shots."

Thomas' social-media activity in recent weeks has forced critics to nail that point home -- that Thomas' job is to be ready to stop pucks, not to express his opinion on anything outside of the hockey world.

The thought was that Thomas was becoming a distraction.

These Bruins -- with Thomas in goal -- didn't look distracted on Saturday. And they got back to their blue-collar, hard-working, never-say-die hockey to get back back to finding a way to win.

Proving true that Bruins aren't going to mix hockey with politics.

"It's our job to build off this," said Thomas. "I think we played a much better game. And we found a way to win again. Over the past two years, that's what we've been really good at. Most of our wins we've earned, and I think we earned our win tonight. I guess the good part is, we're finding a way to win."

Cassidy: Rask 'needed to be better' . . . and Rask agrees

Cassidy: Rask 'needed to be better' . . . and Rask agrees

BOSTON -- It's the wrong time of year for the No. 1 goaltender to struggle. 

But that's what's happening with Tuukka Rask and the Bruins. The former Vezina Trophy winner allowed five goals, including a couple of softies, on 28 shots in Thursday's 6-3 loss to the Lightning, which extended Boston's losing streak to four games. Rask is 3-6-0 in the month of March with a 3.01 goals-against average and .890 save percentage in nine games.

Rask had some good stops early in the game Thursday as the Bruins slogged their way through a slow start, but began to break down at the end of the second period while playing his third game in four days and 59th of the season. Still, interim coach Bruce Cassidy didn't seem inclined to use overwork as an excuse. 

"He needed to be better tonight," Cassidy said of Rask. "We needed to be better in front of him, and he needed to be better on some of those goals, It's March 23, so really, our focus needs to be there. You'd hope it's more fatigue than focus at this point in the year, but I can only speculate."

Tampa Bay's third goal was an odd-man rush with clear breakdowns in front of Rask, but he was also beaten high short side on his glove hand by Anton Stralman while squared to the shooter. Then in the third period Jonathan Drouin uncorked a shot from the face-off circle that beat Rask far-side under his glove hand for the game-winning goal. 

It was a soft goal any way you break it down, and it had Rask accepting responsibility postgame with a voice that softened and trailed off as he copped to his culpability. 

"You have to [pick up your team]," he said. "A lot of the time that's the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there. [On Thursday] I didn't. That's part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it's your fault. There were a couple of times I should've made the save but it happens sometimes . . .

"We're fighting for that last [playoff] spot, it doesn't matter who you play against. There are no easy games and everybody should know that. But, then again, look how we started the game, I don't think that was the plan. We got the late lead [in the second period], but then they came back every single time. Then they extended the lead there and got the win. It was just embarrassing."

The Bruins only hope is that Rask gets it back together and provides the brick-wall goaltending Boston is going to need to prevail in the next eight games. There's a good chance that Boston will be riding him the rest of the way, given Boston's currently narrow hold on a wild-card spot with just a couple of weeks to go. 

Ohio State LB on Belichick: 'When you first meet him, you're scared'

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Ohio State LB on Belichick: 'When you first meet him, you're scared'

Even for some of the nation's top athletes, confident 20-somethings with the rest of their (perhaps very lucrative) lives ahead of them, there's a feeling you just can't shake when Bill Belichick walks into the room. 

"When you first meet him, you're scared," said Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan, per WBZ. "He's quizzing you. It's like a little test. But after you get done with the test, the quiz or whatever, drawing up the defense, it's pretty cool. They're real down to earth people. Really cool."

Belichick was spotted at Ohio State's pro day getting a closer look at McMillan and his teammates on Thursday. He then headed off to Ann Arbor, Michigan for the Wolverines showcase Friday.

During various scouting trips across the country, the Patriots appear to be showing significant interest in the incoming class of linebackers. Belichick spent some extra time with Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham -- who's projected to be a first-rounder -- at his pro day. The team reportedly scheduled a meeting with a speedy linebacker from Cincinnati. And Matt Patricia caught up with Notre Dame linebacker James Onwualu once his workouts finished up on Thursday. 

As for McMillan, the 6-2, 240-pounder was a second-team All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten choice. He's instinctive, but there's some question as to whether or not he has the strength to hold up inside at the next level.