By Dan Libon
BOSTON, MA – Tim Thomas has been under a great deal of pressure for a majority of the entire season. It’s the kind of pressure that comes with being the best goaltender in the league, but also, with high expectations to succeed during the teams final regular season games. Thomas went out on Tuesday and extended his current winning steak to four games between the pipes, as the Bruins knocked off the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, 3-0.
“This was a good challenge for us,” said Thomas. “I know they’re battling for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but that’s a good thing because you know they’re going to bring their A-game [every night].”
Both teams showed off their strength, as well as flexed their muscles during an intense first period.The opening period featured a tremendous dual between both goaltenders and while Thomas was able to record multiple saves, Corey Crawford relied on those “lucky bounces” to keep the puck out of the net and allow Chicago to challenge Boston.
The Bruins gained an early edge with better chances on goal and they were able to keep the Blackhawks on their heels for a majority of the period. Yet, while the Blackhawks settled for slap shots, the Bruins instead fought hard for any possible goal scoring opportunity.
“They were on us pretty good in the first period,” said Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell. “You know we didn’t get rolling, if at all, until later on in the game.”
Once the second period started, fans watched the aggressive play and physicality begin, as Shawn Thornton became the victim of a rough play, which resulted in a gash near his right eye. Thornton suffered the serious injury by colliding with the skate of Blackhawks forward Fernando Pisani, which resulted in him leaving the game and having to get 40 stitches above his eye.
Besides the physical and rough play, Zdeno Chara would eventually get the Bruins on the scoreboard, as Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand set him up for the first score of the evening.
“I was trying to shoot for Rex’s, (Mark Recchi) stick who was up from. When I did it a little tipped by the defenseman and it kind of dove a little bit in and went in,” said Chara
The next goal would come roughly two minutes later, as Johnny Boychuk gave the Bruins a comfortable, 2-0 lead and then later in the third period, Nathan Horton would record goal number 24 on the season, which officially sealed the deal for Boston.
“It dropped like three feet. It was a weird one. I’ve never seen one like that. It was just a tough one to pick up. It started high and just finished like right over the pad. It sank. It sank quite a big,” said Blackhawks goaltender Crawford.
With another win under his belt, Tim Thomas picked up his 33rd victory of the season, as well as his ninth shutout and Mark Recchi reached an important milestone when he recorded his first assist of the game, which makes him now 12th on the NHL all time list with 1,532 points. He is now one place behind former Bruins great, Ray Bourque.
“Obviously, right now it’s, these guys probably get more excited that I do right now, but at the end of my career I’ll look back and be proud of what I did,” said Recchi.
The Bruins are now three points behind the Washington Capitals, who currently are ranked in second place in the Eastern Conference standings and despite the small points deficit between the two squads, head coach Claude Julien explained that he certainly isn’t too concerned about who Boston would face during the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I don’t believe in picking and choosing because a lot of times it comes back to haunt you….At the end of the year, teams sometimes that are at seventh, eighth spot, [pick] up their games and are actually doing well.”