If there’s been a more spectacular save during the Stanley Cup playoffs than the one Tim Thomas made at the 10:39 mark of the third period tonight, everyone in the TD Garden must have somehow forgotten about it, because the opinion was pretty much unanimous:
The Bruins’ goalies stick save of a point-blank bid by Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie at the left post — with Boston clinging to a 2-1 lead in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, no less — was one that no one will forget anytime soon. It was as spectacular a save as a goalie can make.
Initially, it appeared as though Thomas, who made 33 saves in a performance Lightning coach Guy Boucher described afterward, with a tone more of admiration rather than frustration, as “making miracles,” had been fortunate with the puck seeming to hit the post.
But upon further review — as you can see in the video from NHL.com above — it was Thomas, lunging and reaching out his stick to poke the puck back into play, who prevented a near-certain goal.
Save, and a beauty. So was it luck? Or mostly skill? After all, Thomas is favored to win his second Vezina Trophy this season.
“A little bit of both,” said Thomas. “First, I have to say that my recollection might not be exactly what the video is, because that has happened a couple of times lately. But the way I remember it, it got to the point and there were a couple different sets of screens. . . . So I saw the guy getting ready to take the shot but I couldn’t see the puck and that’s probably why he had to shoot wide, our guys were taking away the shooting lanes. I picked it up halfway to me, but I saw it was going wide over to Downie. I was at the top of the crease so I didn’t have time to get my whole body back. With the way the boards are nowadays, you have to be on your toes, with the big bounces, and the big bounce came around. It was just a reaction and a desperation. I’ll admit a I got a little bit lucky there. A little bit.”
Thomas said he got a boost not only from the save, but from the crowd’s reaction to it.
“Sometimes I’m so focused that I don’t even hear the crowd even if it’s at home and even after a big save because I’m thinking or so focused,” he said. “I was focused tonight, but for some reason I heard the crowd and I paid attention to it, and I was very appreciative of the cheering and the loudness. In this case, it gave me a little boost of energy to help me make it through the third period.”
Bruins fans were celebrating Thomas’s saves. And so, inadvertently, was at least on Lightning player on a different occasion.
Earlier in the third period, the Lightning’s Blair Jones briefly raised his arms in celebration after firing a shot that hit Thomas’s shoulder, then ricocheted off the post. Thomas said he never thought the puck was behind him.
“It hit off my shoulder hard enough, I didn’t even think it had hit the post until I saw the replay,” he said. “I saw out of the corner of my eye that it might have grazed the post, but then he goes in the corner and raises his arms, or someone did, and I was confused for a second because I knew it wasn’t in.”