Thomas, Bruins hold firm against Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. — On Jan. 18 at the RBC Center, Tim Thomas stuffed 43 of 45 shots to give the Bruins a 3-2 win over Carolina. On Sunday, Thomas was back at the rink, stopping 11 of 15 to earn his third straight All-Star Game victory. Last night, Thomas might have turned in his best effort of the three.
Thomas turned aside 24 of 26 shots to backstop the Bruins to a 3-2 win over the Hurricanes. His best sequence came in the third period when he kicked out Erik Cole’s bid, then got in front of Brandon Sutter’s rebound attempt.
“They don’t quit,’’ Thomas said of the Hurricanes. “They always pressure, pressure, pressure. So I knew something big was coming. I was just trying to be ready for that.’’
The Bruins broke away from a 1-1 third-period tie with two straight goals. After a David Krejci dish, Nathan Horton put his club ahead with a top-shelf strike at 3:54. It was Horton’s first goal in 11 games.
“I think that was something that everybody’s been waiting for it to happen,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Hopefully it’s a confidence boost for him and there’s more to come. That was a goal scorer’s goal — in tight and he lifted it up.’’
At 5:06, Patrice Bergeron’s long-distance shot floated through traffic and beat Cam Ward. Brad Marchand was in front, setting a screen on the Carolina goalie.
The Hurricanes clawed back with a third-period power-play goal after Marchand was called for an untimely takedown of Jeff Skinner. Joe Corvo ripped a shot through a Cole screen that Thomas couldn’t stop at 8:05, making it a 3-2 game.
Daniel Paille gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the second period. Paille gained net-front position and deflected a Zdeno Chara shot past Ward at 4:14. It was Paille’s first goal of the season.
The Hurricanes tied the game later in the second. Ex-Bruin Sergei Samsonov wheeled into the offensive zone and put a shot on goal. Samsonov’s shot bounced off Bergeron’s blade and skittered to Jamie McBain at the far post. McBain tapped the puck past Thomas at 11:25 to tie the game at 1-1.
Thomas was playing in his 37th game of the season, making his fourth straight start. Tuukka Rask hasn’t played since Jan. 20.
“The last few weeks, it’s been two me, one Tuukka, two me, one Tuukka,’’ Thomas said. “That was keeping me fresh.’’
Thomas is on pace to make 59 regular-season appearances. It would be his most since he played 66 games in 2006-07 for former coach Dave Lewis.
Thomas arrived in Raleigh Thursday for All-Star weekend. He participated in the SuperSkills competition Saturday, then played in Sunday’s third period to earn the win. Thomas enjoyed a much-deserved off day Monday when, among other things, he went to see “The Fighter.’’
“This weekend was more mental energy than physical,’’ Thomas said. “The period the goalies play, they do work hard, because we’re just trying not to get embarrassed. It was only one period.
“The skills, there wasn’t a ton of physical exertion. I’m actually looking forward to getting back into a rhythm.’’
It is a challenge the coaching staff will face during the stretch run. Thomas has been arguably one of the NHL’s three best players. He gives the Bruins the best chance at 2 points every game.
But the 36-year-old plays an athletic style and, like any goalie, assumes heavy mental strain in every game. Meanwhile, Rask has been good, if not great, in his No. 2 role.
“We have to manage that,’’ said Julien. “There’s no ifs or buts. You try and balance it out, knowing that you have to win some hockey games and you want to go with your best goaltender.
“At the same time, you’ve got to understand that he’s one of those goaltenders that’s going to need some rest. We’ve tried to do that.
“Tuukka’s going to have to come up big. He’s going to be playing and he’s going to have to play well and win us some hockey games.’’
Mark Stuart was the healthy scratch last night for the fourth straight game.
“I don’t think it’s a reflection on his play more than what the other six guys have been giving us,’’ Julien said. “That third tandem’s been pretty steady and has played pretty well.
“Right now, it’s a numbers game, and he’s a victim of that.
“To his credit, he’s always been a team-first guy. He wants to play. But he also doesn’t want to disrupt the chemistry that’s in that dressing room.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.