BOSTON – Tim Thomas picked up more at the Olympics than a silver medal and a dozen minutes of ice time.
The U.S. backup once again looked like the goalie who won the 2009 Vezina Trophy on Thursday night, returning from a slump that left him on two different teams’ benches to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in a shootout.
Thomas made 24 saves, stopping Tyler Bozak with a pad save to end the shootout before pumping his glove to celebrate Boston’s first win of 2010 in the TD Garden. But the biggest saves might have come against former Bruin and Olympic teammate Phil Kessel, whom Thomas stopped at point-blank range three times in regulation and again in the shootout.
“At the Olympics, at the end of every practice, I probably took 400 breakaways after practice,” Thomas said, “and 40 of them were against Phil.”
Miroslav Satan scored a goal in regulation and the only goal of the shootout to give the Bruins their first victory in Boston since the New Year’s Day Winter Classic. That was the day the Team USA roster was announced, with Thomas coming back onto the Fenway Park rink to receive his national team sweater.
Since then he hasn’t had much to celebrate, though, losing the Bruins job to Tuukka Rask and watching Ryan Miller start every game in Vancouver. Miller was the tournament MVP, and Thomas only got to play 11 minutes 31 seconds in mop-up duty after the Americans opened a six-goal lead against Finland in the semifinals.
“I was trying to show the team they can have some confidence in me again,” said Thomas, who had not won since Jan. 14 and had not started since Feb. 2, a hiatus that included the last seven Bruins games and the entire Olympic tournament. “I’m not going to lie: This feels really good right now. It’s the first one I’ve had in a long time, and it’s the first one at home in a long time.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien gave his goalie a pep talk to shake him out of his slump.
“I told him, ‘You’re a Vezina Trophy winner. You don’t go from being a great goaltender to a bad goaltender,”‘ Julien said. “We told him the whole organization is behind him, and it was nice to see him respond.”‘
Johnny Boychuk also scored for Boston.
Bozak and Viktor Stalberg scored and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 29 saves for Toronto, which has lost four straight games.
“I couldn’t ask for more from the guys,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “We had some great chances – three or four breakaways. I tip my had to Tim Thomas; he made some huge saves for them.”
Boston led 2-1 before Bozak scored to end a scramble in the middle to tie it in the third period. It stayed that way for the last 13:48 of regulation and five minutes of overtime – and the first four shots of the shootout.
Boston’s David Krejci lost control of the puck and didn’t even get off a shot, then Thomas made a glove save on the much-booed Kessel to the delight of the crowd. Giguere deflected Michael Ryder’s shot over the net, then Thomas made a pad save on Jamie Lundmark.
Satan faked a forehand and then put a backhander around Giguere on his right before Thomas stopped Bozak to end it.
Thomas lost six straight starts before Rask took over for him and started seven straight games. Rask was scratched from Thursday night’s game with an unspecified injury, and the team said he is day-to-day.
The Bruins had a goal waved off just 63 seconds into the game when the replay showed that Ryder kicked the puck into the net. But they took the lead midway through the first period when Satan’s slap shot from the blue line beat Giguere.
Stalberg tied it for Toronto in with 4:33 left in the first, then Boychuk gave Boston a 2-1 lead in the second.
NOTES: The Bruins honoured former coach and current “Hockey Night in Canada” host Don Cherry with a ceremonial puck drop before the game. Cherry stuck around to provide commentary on the TV broadcast. … Bruins F Patrice Bergeron missed his second straight NHL game with a groin injury. He hurt himself during the Olympics, playing for the gold medal-winning Team Canada. … Boston called up G Matt Dalton from Reading of the ECHL on an emergency basis. … D Dennis Seidenberg, who was acquired from Florida at Wednesday’s trading deadline, made his debut for the Bruins. … Luca Caputi, acquired at the trading deadline from Pittsburgh, had an assist in his Toronto debut.