TAMPA — As competitive as Tim Thomas is, his Bruins teammates knew how determined he was for a big bounceback game Thursday night.
Thomas, 37, a Vezina Trophy finalist as the league's top goalie, had allowed nine goals over the first two games of the Eastern Conference final, rare in itself. He made some outstanding saves, but the Bruins gave up too many quality scoring chances due to an uncharacteristic wide-open game.
But on Thursday, when Boston played a more typical game, it got a more typical Thomas, who picked up his second career postseason shutout with 31 saves in a 2-0 win in Game 3.
"He wanted to step up and play the way he has been playing all year long," Bruins left wing Milan Lucic said. "He's been our MVP from Day 1. He's a very competitive guy. He takes a lot of pride in being the best player out there every night. And he showed that tonight. When he's feeling it, and feeling confident, he's a tough goalie to beat, and for us we have a lot of confidence in him, that's for sure."
Thomas credited the play in front of him, the Bruins playing a more tighter game, allowing himself to feel normal in net. Unlike the first two games, when Thomas had to fend off breakaways and odd-man rushes, he just needed to be steady Thursday.
"I'm kind of a product of the way the game goes in front of me," Thomas said. "I was able to play more under control tonight, but a lot of that had to do with … we played the way that I'm used to. I felt comfortable in a game like that."
Thomas was tested, including a flurry of chances just more than six minutes in. Thomas stopped a Teddy Purcell slap shot, then spun around to make a save on a Vinny Lecavalier wrist shot, before defensemen Dennis Seidenberg blocked an attempt by Marty St. Louis.
"They came in pretty fast," Thomas said. "And I was moving when the first shot came, so I made the save but as I was doing it, my momentum carried me towards the corner. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lecavalier was going to get the rebound and that's when I did the spin-o-rama. I spun, got to the center of the net and fortunately got a leg on it."