BOSTON — There was a lot of talk before Monday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final about Bruins goalie Tim Thomas' so-called guarantee of a series victory, something he said was "blown out of proportion."
But what dominated conversation following Boston's 3-1 victory over the Lightning was Thomas' stick save on Steve Downie midway through the third period.
"It was unbelievable," Boston center Patrice Bergeron said. "It turned the whole game around."
It was one of many by Thomas, who put the Bruins one win away from the Stanley Cup final with 33 saves, helping kill off four power plays.
"There's no two ways about it, that's an amazing goaltender that you saw," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "He's making miracles."
Thomas' main Monday "miracle," which will likely be shown on highlights for years to come, was the save against Downie in the third. With the Bruins up 2-1, Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer's shot from the point went wide left. It took a weird carom off the back boards right to Downie, who was just to the left of the crease. Thomas, positioned at the top of the crease, desperately dove back, reaching with his stick as the puck hit his stick — and the post.
"It was just a reaction, and desperation," Thomas said. "And I'll admit, I got a little bit lucky there."
Thomas also robbed Downie of a goal earlier on a point-blank chance, and got just enough of a Blair Jones shot, which went off his shoulder and the post.
"He stood on his head tonight," wing Milan Lucic said.
Thomas said he felt a little more pressure after a quote of his took a life of its own. In Sunday's Boston Herald, Thomas was quoted as saying "We're going to win" in terms of the series, and the story quickly picked up steam. Thomas said "there was no guarantee."
"The way the question was framed was more the effect of, how do I see the rest of this series going?" Thomas said. "In my mind, I was thinking about how I visualized, of course I'm going to visualize us winning this series. I'm not going to sit here and visualize us losing.
"So that was that, but because it was so blown out of proportion, yeah there was a little more pressure. But I tried ignoring it the best I could, and tried to play the game. What matters is what you've done on the ice, and not the other stuff."
And Thomas' play Monday spoke for itself.
As Boucher said, "We're still trying to figure out the Thomas enigma."