The last time Tim Thomas came to the District, his decision to skip the Boston Bruins’ trip to the White House was front and center. He couldn’t save himself from the spotlight and scrutiny.
Then there was Sunday afternoon, when Thomas saved just about everything to stifle the Washington Capitals in a 4-1 Bruins victory.
“This is more normal,” Thomas said. “This is what I’m used to, that’s for sure.”
Thomas was sharp early and often, making 35 stops on 36 shots to earn his 22nd win. It was the most shots by the Caps since putting up 44 at the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 7. And though there were some Grade-A chances, the 37-year-old was there.
“We got a lot of chances, but Thomas came up big and had a big game. A goalie like that can make a difference,” Caps coach Dale Hunter said. “We had a breakaway and some good chances around. He’s a good goalie, and he got the better of us.”
Dennis Wideman was a teammate of Thomas’ with the Bruins and knows how he can take over a game. Wideman was gone by the time Thomas won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender and then the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP as part of a Stanley Cup season.
Sunday, Thomas flashed some of that form.
“He’s been doing that for a long time. He made some real big saves,” Wideman said. “I think even really early in the first Ovi had basically an empty net and then he comes flying across and got enough of it to send it over the net. I thought we created stuff, we had chances, but we didn’t score.”
Alex Ovechkin did have basically an empty net to shoot at after Thomas turned Marcus Johansson’s attempt aside. But Thomas got there. Barely.
“When I saw Ovechkin lining up to take that rebound real fast, I just was using reflexes and getting to the middle of the net as quick as possible,” Thomas said, “and fortunately I was able to get it off my blocker and off the butt end of my stick.”
When a goalie’s going that well, it can be maddening. Joel Ward missed an empty net, too, and even when the Caps got the puck into prime scoring areas, they couldn’t break through.
“Thomas played a pretty good game, made some big saves as he usually does. It’s frustrating when you see that and you do have a chance to score and it doesn’t go in,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “That’s going to happen. It’s a good team over there; you can’t really give them a whole lot without paying for it.”