BOSTON (CBS) — Many images of Tim Thomas making dazzling save after dazzling save are forever embedded in the minds of hockey fans in Boston, as the goaltender stopped 798 of the 849 shots sent his way on the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup.
Thursday night, when the Bruins began their quest for another Cup, it was a very different story.
Through 20 minutes, Thomas had seen just five Washington shots. It was even worse in the second period, when the Capitals could muster just two shots on net.
Despite the lack of action, Thomas remained sharp, highlighted by a spectacular toe save on a laser off the stick of Alex Ovechkin on a power play early in the third period.
“I knew they were going to get their burst sooner or later,” Thomas said after stopping all 17 shots he faced in the Bruins’ 1-0 overtime win. “So I was mentally prepared for that going into the third period.”
That third period saw the Capitals dominate possession and outshoot the Bruins 9-3, after the B’s led in shots 26-7 through two.
But Thomas was ready, and he now has yet another playoff shutout — his sixth in 44 games — to show for it. He also extended his playoff shutout streak to an impressive 123:44.
That streak included a huge save in the overtime period on a shot from Marcus Johansson. Thomas made the save, and the ensuing breakout led to Chris Kelly’s game-winning slapper, that finally beat Braden Holtby, who caught many by surprise with his outstanding play in net (29 saves).
Though it was just the first game of what could be a long postseason, the save and the goal that came seconds later had Thomas thinking back to last year.
“First, I was just focused on making the save,” Thomas said. “[Johansson] was limited to shooting it blocker side. I pretty much knew it was going to the blocker side. I didn’t know if it was going to go up or if it was going to go down. I just tried to position myself well. Sometimes those shots on the ice are actually harder than the shots up high in that type of scenario, so I was obviously very happy to make the save.
“It actually flashed into my mind right away. I was like, ‘Man, last year a couple of different times when I made the big save we went right down and scored.’ And then I saw Chris take the long pass and I saw he had a step on the defenseman, and I had a good feeling. I had a good feeling that it was going to go in.”
Bruins fans hope it won’t be the last flashback to last season that Thomas and his teammates have this spring. If Thomas keeps playing like he did in Game 1, it won’t be.
Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelFhurley