February 10, 2011

Thomas' first NHL fight sends Garden into frenzy

Tim Thomas and Carey Price threw down midway through the second period. (Getty)

BOSTON-- It was easy to be blindsided by everything that occurred at TD Garden in Wednesday's game between the Bruins and Canadiens.

 Two of the top goalies in the National Hockey League allowed a combined 14 goals, as what projected to be a low-scoring game turned out to be a barn-burner.

 But when Carey Price and Tim Thomas met at the Habs blueline and dropped their gloves, even Thomas was in a scenario he never in his life saw coming to fruition.

 "I’ve been playing a long time and it’s just never a situation where it’s worked out like that," the B's netminder said of his brief fight, as everyone else on the ice was involved in a melee in the corner. "But, tonight it did."

 Thomas crept out of his crease and knew he could no longer be an innocent bystander as Price got involved with the massive scrum.

"He was jumping in," Thomas said of his netminding counterpart. "I went off the blue line and he backed into his crease. And then he went in again and you just can’t let it be an outnumbered situation. He was more than willing to fight."

 Thomas had enough time to map out a bit of a strategy for the bout.

 "I had this big old plan," he said. "I was going to grab his right and I was going to throw lefts because I know he’s bigger and taller and has a reach on me. I thought I could do a better job throwing lefts at him, but when I went to grab he got a good hold on my right arm and I got nothing. So then I was like, 'Oh now what do I do?'"

 Thomas commended Price for not throwing any jabs when the two fell to the ice.

 "I was trying to pull him off-balance and his shirt came off his head and then I fell and…actually as I was falling my left arm came free and but then it was over," he said. "He fought with the fighter’s manners as far as not hitting when you’re down."

 The two appeared to be visibly amused, as Price patted Thomas a number of times while they remained tangled up.

"We're on opposing teams but we spent some time together at hockey camp a few summers ago and we were just at the All-Star game together," said Thomas. "We’re on friendly terms. It was business. But once business is done, it’s done."

 One other thought Thomas had was not to get embarrassed or -- even worse -- injured in the first fight of his NHL career.

 "The best part of it is that both goalies are pretty important to their teams and both of us got out of it okay, not like Rick DiPietro," Thomas said, referring to the Islanders netminder who will now be sidelined for over a month after being taken down by a single punch from Penguins goalie Brent Johnson in a game last week. "That's a huge loss for the Islanders."

 Thomas knew he needed to be better prepared.

 "It went through my head really quick that I didn't want to be like DiPietro and just stand there and let him hit me," he said. "I was waiting for the punch to come and then I was going to duck and counter."

 Completely jacked up after joining in on the brawl in the second period, Thomas allowed a quick tally as the Habs cut the lead back to a goal, making it 4-3.

 The B's netminder wouldn't completely blame the adrenaline rush he was still feeling for the quick tally, but said the goal itself actually helped him settle down and focus again.

 "I mean, they'd already scored three before that," Thomas sarcastically said. "Actually, I tried to approach it as a way to settle me down. I was hoping I could just shut the door. At that point I was thinking that the best thing we could do was win the game because that was going to give us all the final laugh. They scored again, but we just kept coming right back at them."

 As the Bruins relentless offensive attack piled up an octet of goals in an eventual 8-6 victory, even Thomas wondered how two teams so keen on defense wound up combining for more than a dozen goals and still had time to drop the gloves time and time again.
"It's not how I think anyone planned on this game going," he said. "They've been playing a very tight, defensive style and that's kind of how we play too. You expect a relatively low-scoring game. It was just totally different, but I bet you the fans are happy."

They sure are, Tim. They sure are.