Thomas likes finishing touch

By Barbara Matson
Globe Correspondent / December 8, 2010

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Only one thing really mattered to Bruins goalie Tim Thomas: His team finished off the victory without sliding into a shootout.

In a 3-2 victory over the Sabres at TD Garden last night, the Bruins rallied from a one-goal deficit to tie the score in the third period, then claimed the victory when Mark Recchi tipped Dennis Seidenberg’s power-play slap shot past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller halfway through overtime.

“To finish it off, that’s the key,’’ Thomas said. “Because I mean, theoretically, every game that you play in is preparation for a Stanley Cup run. There is no shootout in the playoffs: You need to find a way to win that in overtime.

“That’s what we did tonight and that’s a good thing.’’

Thomas didn’t see Recchi’s winner go in the net, but he heard the crowd roaring.

“I was almost at the blue line,’’ said Thomas after the goal was waved off, allowing play to continue for nearly a minute. “I was coming out to celebrate because the fans were cheering and then they iced the puck and I was [thinking], ‘Oh no, because if that goes over my head I’m in trouble.’

“By the time we finally got a whistle, I’d forgotten about the goal.’’

The pace of the game kept changing; the Bruins took a lead, gave it up, then came back to force a tie. It seemed to be a directionless game; there were fits and starts for both teams. The Bruins had scads of scoring chances, but got the tying goal when Nathan Horton bounded off the bench to intercept Mike Weber’s ill-conceived pass to the middle of the Sabres’ zone, firing it past a startled Miller midway through the third period. Milan Lucic got the Bruins’ first goal when he squeezed an unlikely shot between Miller’s skate and the right post.

“At times it was back and forth and at times there was nothing going on either way,’’ said Thomas, who collected 28 saves and ran his record to 14-2-2.

In their previous game, the Bruins spoiled a strong Thomas outing by losing to the Maple Leafs in a shootout, the third shootout loss for Boston in three tries. Thomas knows those games are pointless, in many ways.

“It was big for us to come back, being down there, 2-1,’’ said Thomas, “and get the win, and get the win in OT, too. That was a really big win for us. It’s 2 points; it’s very tight right now [in the standings] and the 2 points puts us in fifth or sixth and although Buffalo still got a point out of it, it puts a little more separation between us and them and those teams in ninth, 10th, and 11th.’’

Thomas had some odd moments, too. He couldn’t prevent Thomas Vanek’s go-ahead goal in the third, when the Sabres forward whipped a shot from behind the goal line that ticked off the back of the goalie as he moved to the hug the post. The puck dropped behind him into the net.

But then Thomas denied Derek Roy in overtime, when the Sabres center was left dawdling all alone on Thomas’s doorstep.

“I just saw the play developing and I knew he was all by himself, so I had to make a decision whether to try to cut off the pass originally and get really aggressive,’’ said Thomas. “I just decided to sit back in my crease and try to match him move for move. At that point, there’s really not a thought process going on; you have to match his speed.’’

Roy was in a peerless position, but when he tried to stickhandle, he mangled the shot. Thomas used both his pad and his stick to push the puck away.

On the ensuing rush toward the Buffalo net, Luke Adam clipped Marc Savard in the face with his stick, drawing a four-minute penalty. That gave the Bruins a crucial power play and they used the opportunity to finish off the victory.

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