WASHINGTON It wasnt quite the Tim Thomas save on Steve Downie from last years conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, or even the post-to-post majesty that was his stop against Brian Gionta during last years Game 7 thriller against the Montreal Canadiens.
But Thomas rose to the occasion in Game 6 against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center in DC after he was visibly disappointed in faltering during the third period of a Game 5 loss at home. The Bs goaltender had let in a couple of soft-toss goals in that game, and that hardened into steely determination that he wouldnt go out of this years playoffs like that.
Instead he authored another trademark Thomas save that helped backbone Bostons 4-3 overtime win: this time it was Nicklas Backstrom feeding across the ice to Marcus Johansson right by the doorstep of the goal. Thomas needed to author one more Superman leaping save and he just got a piece of the shot with his stick that like it was going to be tucked right inside the left post.
It was one of 36 saves for Thomas in a game where the Capitals needed bounces, deflections or an Alex Ovechkin bullet right off a face-off if they hoped to beat him.
"I thought Thomas played a huge game," said Claud Julien. "I know he was upset yesterday after the game and just by his reaction I had no doubt in my mind he was going to come up big today. Thats the character that this individual has. When hes not happy with himself you can assure he is going to bounce back. He was up early this morning having breakfast and you could see he was prepared for this game. He did a great job for us tonight."
For a guy that teammates say was blaming himself and upset after the two goals in the third period of Game 5, the Thomas defiance in Game 6 was a reminder of how much resiliency the 37-year-old goaltender has in his possession.
Its part of what has made him great when everybody doubted him earlier in his pro career, and its what has allowed him to reach the Conn Smythe, Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup heights that hes attained in recent years.
I pride myself on doing the best I can every night and doing the best I can to help the team, said Thomas. Our backs are against the wall and hopefully I helped them out, but they also stepped up and helped themselves out. The whole team did it.
The whole team did it, but they cant win unless Thomas is playing like the elite goaltender that he is on most nights. Game 6 was one of those nights for the Bs goaltender, and the decisive Game 7 will have to be as well if the Bruins hope to advance.