LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Tim Thomas stood in a corner of the locker room where goalie Jim Craig and his U.S. teammates celebrated their “Miracle on Ice” Olympic triumph over the Soviet Union 31 years ago and savoured the moment, if only fleetingly.
“I already had some inkling that I wanted to be a goalie, but those Olympics and Jim Craig sealed the deal,” Thomas said Tuesday, a day after backstopping the Boston Bruins back into their Stanley Cup playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. “Truly, the main focus already is switching to Thursday and playing in Montreal. This isn’t the Olympics. It wouldn’t be a miracle if we were able to win Thursday.”
David Krejci and Nathan Horton scored their first goals of the series in the first period and Thomas stopped 34 shots as Boston rebounded with a 4-2 win at the Bell Centre after dropping the first two games of the seven-game series at home.
“It made the whole bus ride down here,” said Thomas, who turned aside 14 of 15 shots in the third period to hold off Montreal’s comeback bid. “If we were down 3-0 right now, it’d be not a fun atmosphere to be in. It’s 2-1, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. That was the first step. Now we can come here for a couple of days, step back and recharge ourselves and get ready to do it again because it’s not easy.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien gave the players who skated against the Canadiens on Monday night the day off on Tuesday. That the team chose Lake Placid was a no-brainer—it’s less than a two-hour drive away and its Olympic legacy gives it the right atmosphere for a team trying to rebound against some stiff odds. The Bruins have been down 2-0 26 times in seven-game series in the Stanley Cup playoffs and have never rallied to win one of them.
“It’s a great place to be,” Julien said “It’s nice and quiet. There’s great history here and there’s a great opportunity for us to get a quality practice in and get a chance to get a rest. There’s a lot of good things about being here. We just felt it was the best decision for us.”
Julien, who has had to ignore speculation that his job might be on the line if the Bruins don’t make a deep run into the playoffs, also recalled with fondness the exploits of that 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s a great inspirational story,” he said. “Sometimes, you hope that you can look back on those things and build on it, believe in what you can accomplish.”
In bygone days, home ice always seemed to be a distinct advantage in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not so in this series so far, though the Canadiens certainly did their best to rattle Boston before the puck was even dropped Monday night.
The sold-out crowd of 21,273 rocked the Bell Centre as Canadiens Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau brought a lit torch from the team’s dressing room and handed it to a young hockey player clad in a Montreal uniform. The torch is the legendary symbol of the team’s heart—”To you from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high,” a verse from the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields,” has been emblazoned on the Canadiens’ locker room wall since 1953—and the young player touched it to the ice.
The surface was then transformed during a brilliant light show into a reddish-orange flame that spread out from centre ice to deafening applause. The Bruins listened and watched, then did their thing.
“We’ve played so many games against them now it’s no surprise when you go to that building or you come to our building and there’s a big buildup,” Boston defenceman Andrew Ference said. “I think both teams have had so much practice it’s almost business as usual.”
“We just wanted to go out there and play,” added Milan Lucic. “We didn’t want to overthink anything and put too much pressure on ourselves.”
The Bruins will practice Wednesday in Lake Placid, return to Montreal for Game 4 on Thursday night and then retreat to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday.
After playing virtually error-free hockey through the first two games in Boston, the Canadiens lost their composure in the first period Monday night and that carried over into the second. It was too much to overcome, though the Canadiens came close to tying it late in the third.
“At the end of the day, the difference was the first period, the first 10 minutes of the game,” Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said. “We got scored on early and we got away from our game plan. The second and third periods I think we got the mometum back and we started taking it to them. We just had a bad period.
“That’s what we need to do (score first),” Gionta said. “That’s the game we played in the first two games this series. You’ve got to be prepared right from the beginning. It sets the tone for the game.”
NOTES: The Canadiens have a 37-9 series record in the Stanley Cup playoffs when they are up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series, and 11 have ended in five games. They are 10-4 in series that were decided in six games and are 6-0 in series that have gone the full seven. … Neither team scored on a combined nine power-play chances Monday night and the Bruins are 0 for 11 with the man advantage in the series.
AP freelance writer Sean Farrell in Montreal contributed to this report.