WASHINGTON – Tim Thomas’ return to the nation’s capital was less political and more successful.
Playing about 10 blocks from the White House—a place he famously avoided two weeks ago—Thomas carried a shutout deep into the third period Sunday as the Boston Bruins snapped a two-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals.
Thomas’ no-show, accompanied by a Facebook post about a federal government that he said was “out of control,” overshadowed his teammates’ day of celebration when the reigning Stanley Cup champions were honoured by U.S. President Barack Obama on Jan. 23. He didn’t play the next day, when the Bruins lost 5-3 to the Capitals.
But last year’s Vezina Trophy winner and playoff MVP was in fine form for a Super Bowl Sunday matinee, the first time all season he’s played on back-to-back days. Among his 35 saves was a quick reflex stop against Alex Ovechkin when the Capitals forward had an open look after a rebound.
“Tim’s capable of doing that for us, and he’s done that a lot in the past,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “And I thought he was on top of his game today.”
Thomas was booed pregame, but there’s no telling how much of it was the standard disdain shown by Washington fans for any opposing star player.
“I think I’m pretty much booed at every arena, wouldn’t you say?” Thomas said. “Even before anything happened?”
Still, he acknowledged it was good to have a trip back to Washington that was all about hockey.
“Yeah, yeah, it was. This is more normal,” he said. “This is what I’m used to, that’s for sure.”
Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand scored first-period goals, and Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley tallied in the third for the Bruins, who built a 3-0 lead and rediscovered some offensive pop after scoring only once during their two-game skid.
Marcus Johansson scored the lone goal for the Capitals, who have lost three of four and haven’t scored a power-play goal in seven games. Washington also missed a chance to overtake the Florida Panthers once again for first place in the Southeast Division.
“I don’t think we gave it as much effort as I thought we could’ve,” Washington forward Matt Hendricks said. “We did have chances to score goals. But at the same time they did a good job of capitalizing on their opportunities.”
The Capitals also lost centre Brooks Laich, who left the game after being hit into the boards by Dennis Seidenberg with 8 minutes remaining in the second period. Laich was walking on crutches and wearing a left knee brace after the game. Coach Dale Hunter said Laich was day to day.
“I’m not a doctor, but these things sometimes there’s some swelling and you’ve got to wait to see what happens,” Laich said. “I don’t think it’s anything serious. In the past I’ve been a fast healer, so we’ll see when I wake up.”
Also, Capitals defenceman Dmitry Orlov, whose nose was broken when he was struck in the face by a puck on Saturday, took another puck to the face Sunday, this time with 11:54 to go in the third on a deflected shot from Shawn Thornton. Hunter said Orlov wouldn’t miss any games.
Meanwhile, Ovechkin, in his second game since returning from a three-game suspension for his hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Zbynek Michalek, was more active after shaking off the rust on Saturday against Montreal and finished with seven shots on goal.
But Thomas stopped them all. The highlight save came when Thomas reacted quickly, sliding to his left, to stop Ovechkin’s drive when the forward pounced on a rebound late in the first period.
“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.”
Thomas also made a point-blank stick save on Joel Ward in traffic and used his right pad to thwart Alexander Semin on a breakaway.
The Bruins scored more in the first period than in their previous two games combined, with both goal-scorers getting their 19th of the season. The first came after Lucic got behind Wideman to take a lead pass from Peverley on a 2-on-2 break, and the second when Patrice Bergeron worked hard to win the puck behind the Washington net to slide it over to Marchand on the doorstep.
Seguin’s redirect goal—his 20th of the season—provided some insurance before the Capitals finally got one past Thomas. Peverley scored an empty-netter in the final minute.
NOTES: Tomas Vokoun, getting the call again a day after shutting out the Canadiens, had 26 saves for the Capitals. … Maybe the third period should have been optional: The Bruins improved to 22-0-0 when leading after two; the Capitals are 16-0-0.