Thomas turns it around against Rangers

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Thomas turns it around against Rangers

NEW YORK Tim Thomas never backs down from a challenge, but the 37-year-old goaltender also always knows when hes facing one.

So Thomas certainly knew he was 2-6-1 over the course of his career at Madison Square Garden heading into Sunday nights meaningful game against the New York Rangers, and that Henrik Lundqvist has had the better of him in their head-to-head matchups.

So it all became fuel to Thomas fire heading into a game with the Northeast Division and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference on the table, and Thomas finished with a 33-save gem in a 2-1 victory over the Rags at Madison Square Garden.

It looked shaky early when the Rangers turned a Zdeno Chara slap shot off Jordan Carons leg into a Marian Gaborik partial breakaway goal that Thomas couldnt stop when the shot came in low. But that was it for a determined Thomas, who put up the wall following that first goal allowed.

This is a tough building to play in. Its dark. There are funny bounces all over the place. Plus theyre a good team and they play solid hockey, said Thomas. I felt pretty good, so from my own perspective I just wanted to stay focused and keep playing the way I was. So I just wanted to keep it going, and as things went on in the third I just wanted to make sure took it in regulation. I didnt want to play in overtime.

Im starting to see the puck in traffic and find it, and I think thats important. Im getting to where I need to be.

Instead Dennis Seidenberg fired a one-timer past Lundqvist after a quick Patrice Bergeron screen in front of the net, and Bergeron managed to squirt a puck through the Swedes pads on a hard-working power play in the second period.

That was all Thomas would need while making 15 saves in the third period, and standing up everything the Rangers could throw at them. It was clear New York finally started getting discouraged at the end of the third period when Ryan Callahan floated a floating, weak shot at Thomas with the Bs goaltender far out of the net without his stick.

It was a panic move in a 2-1 game with Bostons goaltender down and out of the play, but thats what Thomas can do to demoralize an opponent when hes at his puck-stopping best.

He was clearly at that against the Rags on Sunday, and Claude Julien pointed to a big right pad save on a hard-charging Marc Staal as one that everybody celebrated from the bench with a giant exhale.

The biggest thing for me was to come in and play a good, solid game and I thought we did, said Claude Julien. He saved his best for the end. Theres no doubt about that. We were looking at it from the bench and thought one of those pucks was going in, but he kicked it out. I thought was the save of the night. For two periods we did a good job in front of him, but they were a desperate team in the third trying to do anything they could to tie it up.

It was important for Thomas psyche to get a win at Madison Square Garden and beat Lundqvist this season after a few failed attempts, and now they have with both teams looking forward to a potential showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Thomas will have to stop a lot of pucks between now and then, but hes looked up for it while going 5-1-1 in his tending turnaround over the last two weeks.

Ainge: Isaiah Thomas visiting hip specialists, no decision yet on surgery

Ainge: Isaiah Thomas visiting hip specialists, no decision yet on surgery

BOSTON – The last 2 1/2 games for the Celtics have come without Isaiah Thomas (right hip) and it has certainly been a factor in Boston trailing Cleveland 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals heading into tonight’s must-win for the Celtics to keep their season alive.
 
There have been rumors that if the series with Cleveland were closer, maybe that would lead to a return to the floor for Thomas.
 
“No. No way. He’s done [this season],” Danny Ainge, Celtics president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s "Toucher & Rich" show this morning.
 
Ainge said there’s still swelling in the hip, and it probably won’t go down enough for doctors to make a determination whether surgery is needed for another couple weeks.

Thomas was in New York City earlier this week visiting a hip specialist. He's expected to consult with at least two more before making a decision as to what's the best course of treatment.
 
“Everybody agrees if there’s anything that needs to be done to it surgically, it helps...if the inflammation goes down,” Ainge said. “The recovery [time] would be quicker.”
 
The injury initially occurred on March 15 against Minnesota.
 
Ainge said he didn’t become too concerned about it until after Thomas re-aggravated it in Game 6 of the second-round series against Washington and was questionable to play in Game 7.
 
“I was worried going into the Cleveland series that he was nowhere near himself in Game 1 or 2,” Ainge said. “And Game 2 in the second quarter it was clear he was in a lot of pain. No way we could go out and allow him to play the second half.”
 
Boston was blown out 130-86 in Game 2. In the first half, Thomas had two points and six assists, while missing all six of his shots from the field.
 
Ainge said there was “a lot” of irritation and inflammation around the affected joint in Thomas' right hip.
 
“It had gotten worse from the MRIs he had before,” said Ainge, who added that it would have been “irresponsible to allow him to play anymore.”
 

Butler reaction to Gilmore signing: 'We got another good player'

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Butler reaction to Gilmore signing: 'We got another good player'

FOXBORO -- Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium gave reporters their first opportunity to see both Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore on the field at the same time.

Once Gilmore signed with the Patriots earlier this offseason, there was no guarantee he'd actually team up with the 27-year-old in his fourth season out of West Alabama. But Butler wasn't given an offer sheet by the Saints or anyone else, he wasn't traded, and now together they make up one of the most talented cornerback duos in the NFL. 

"Um, nothing much really," Butler replied when asked for his initial reaction to the Gilmore deal. "Nothing much really. We got a better player. We got another player. We got another good player on this team. Anything to help the team win, I'm down with."

Depite the fact that Gilmore is the one who received the big-money contract from the Patriots earlier this year, Butler had nothing but good things to say about his teammate following Thursday's workout. 

"He brings the size and the coverage skills," Butler said. "One of the best guys in the league. Very underrated. [He's] come in, head down, working hard. Just trying to build off each other no matter what."

Butler acknowledged that the corner group, which also includes Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones, has some work to do when it comes to their communication, but he indicated he'll be happy to chip in wherever he's needed. The Patriots could use some help in the slot following Logan Ryan's departure to Tennessee, and Butler said he'd be open to playing inside.

"Wherever they put me, I'm gonna play that role," he said. "I'm ready to play the slot if that's what it is."