Last postseason, Tim Thomas wins a battle like Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Washington Capitals. He doesn't give up questionable third-period goals to Mike Knuble and Troy Brouwer, who scored the game-winner on the power play with 1:27 left in regulation. He shuts down the opponents until the Bruins find a hero.
Of course, that hero last season was Nathan Horton, and he's out with a concussion. Meanwhile, Thomas hasn't been the same netminder he was in Boston's 2011 Stanley Cup run, and the Bruins face elimination in Game 6 in D.C. on Sunday after the Capitals' 4-3 victory in Boston on Saturday.
With the score tied 2-2, Joel Ward's long shot was kicked aside by Thomas … right to the stick blade of an onrushing Mike Knuble, who put it past the Bruins goalie for the 3-2 lead.
The Bruins battled back, scoring their first power-play goal of the playoffs on a Johnny Boychuk blast at 8:47. But with Benoit Pouliot in the penalty box on a slashing call (and a weak one), Troy Brouwer fired a puck from the wing and Thomas couldn't make what would otherwise be a routine save for him:
Pierre McGuire said it: Thomas lost his net there, just as Braden Holtby did on Chris Kelly's OT game winner back in Game 1.
Now, five games later, Holtby — who had 21 games as an NHL goaltender heading into the series — is outplaying last year's Vezina winner, instilling a cofidence and swagger in his team.
Meanwhile, there's scuttlebutt about friction between Thomas and his teammates after Thomas was critical of their play after Game 4. As James Murphy of ESPN Boston told The DA Show:
"I had a couple of players talk to me off the record; they didn't like it," said Murphy. "The general feeling in that dressing room (Friday) was we put forth a great game and we did a lot of good things. We outplayed them, unfortunately they had a goalie that stole the show… and we have to find a way to score on them."
"But here is a guy in Tim Thomas that has been pretty much sheltered by his teammates and organization since the White House snafu and the slump he went into after that," said Murphy, adding that the Thomas's teammates backed him up for his two-month slum. "The bottom line is, his teammates went to bat for him, they got his back, and there is he after a really hard loss — a loss in which they worked hard — and he just sold them down the river."
Said Claude Julien after the Game 5 loss: "We may be in trouble but we're not dead."
They will be if Tim Thomas gets outplayed by his rookie counterpart for a third straight game.
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