BOSTON – Often regarded as creatures of habit, goaltenders tend to live and die by their routines.
Tim Thomas was able to execute most of his rituals in Saturday’s game against the visiting Predators. As he always does, the veteran netminder incessantly tapped his stick on both posts. When TV timeouts interrupted play, he moseyed out near the blue line and stretched out.
But getting into the flow of the game was something beyond Thomas’ control. Boston’s stingy defense and Nashville’s lack of scoring chances kept him from doing that. With Thomas spending most of the matinee peering down the other end of the rink, finding a rhythm proved difficult for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, as he coughed up three goals on 22 shots.
“I was doing the best I could to mentally stay in it,” said Thomas. “Some of the little stuff, like when you get out to play the puck, can help you to keep in the game. So, I didn’t feel that bad actually through the first period. It got harder as we went on.”
After facing just six shots in the opening frame, it took until the 7:32 mark of the second for Nashville to put a puck on net. Sure enough, Shea Weber’s slapper snuck through Thomas’ wickets, knotting things up at a goal apiece.
The Predators offensive efforts after the goal were once again stymied. Thomas’ first save of the frame didn’t come until 4:45 was left to go when he stopped Mike Fisher to keep the game tied at 1-1.
“We dominated so much in the early second period that I didn’t really get any action,” Thomas said. “So at that point it got harder and harder, well, 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 scoring chances. So, it’s fine if I don’t get shots. It’s my job to be ready when I do get shots.”
Unfortunately, the final 20 minutes were a rough stretch for No. 30. The Predators were again limited to half-a-dozen shots, but two of them found their way to the back of Boston’s net.
“I was trying to figure out what happened for myself and I think what happened is they passed it across crease like that and I didn’t see any Nashville people out there,” Thomas said, recounting Mike Fisher’s goal that put Nashville ahead 3-2 with under four minutes left in regulation.
“I took my eye off the puck to look and see where the Nashville guys were. By the time I looked back, I saw Fisher winding up to whack at the puck. I never actually got my eye back on the puck before he shot it and scored. So that’s what happened. That’s my mistake, taking my eye off the puck I guess.”
Luckily for the Bruins, Thomas pulled through when it mattered most, stopping all three shots he faced in overtime and both shooters (Andrei Kostitsyn, Martin Erat) in the shootout.
“Well, I got fortunate on the first one I think that he couldn’t lift it because obviously I was taking it way down low late,” Thomas said of Kostitsyn’s attempt. “And the second one there, I also think I got a little bit fortunate because the puck kind of bounced on him at about the hash marks, 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.”
Though being sparingly tested proved to be a hindrance throughout the first 65 minutes of play, Thomas gladly welcomed a lightened workload in the shootout as Boston tallied in both the second and third rounds.
“‘Segy’ [Tyler Seguin] and ‘Bergy’ [Patrice Bergeron] scoring was huge for me,” he said. “And ‘Bergy’ scoring that second one so I don’t even have to make another save, I was very appreciative.”