Thomas hopes to pen Bruins miracle

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas makes a save against the Canadiens during Game 3 of their NHL Eastern...

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas makes a save against the Canadiens during Game 3 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal hockey at the Bell Centre in Montreal on April 18, 2011. (SHAUN BEST/Reuters)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:17 PM ET

The story was writing itself.

A key figure on a team that had gone from favourite to underdog after the first two games of its Round 1 series with the Canadiens, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was standing in locker room No. 5 at Herb Brooks Arena in the Lake Placid Olympic Center -- the same dressing quarters used by his childhood hero, Jim Craig, and the 'Miracle on Ice' U.S. Olympic team that pulled off one of the most stunning upsets of all-time against the Russians in the 1980 Olympics.

"I was five years old," said Thomas. "I already had some inkling I wanted to be a goalie, but those Olympics and Jim Craig sealed the deal."

Meanwhile, the Bruins won Game 3, but heading back to Bell Centre to play the Habs in front of their maniacal fans Thursday, they still have their own mini-miracle to complete.

Yes, the story was writing itself ... until Thomas yanked the paper away.

"This isn't the Olympics," he said to the large media contingent that followed the Bruins to this sleepy village retreat a couple of hours from Montreal. "It wouldn't be a miracle if we were able to win Thursday, you know? It's a totally different situation. I think (the U.S. win) is kind of a different page than what's actually going on. It's more inspiration to life, I'd say, than to this one upcoming game in Montreal.

"This was a huge moment for hockey in the United States, and also just for the United States as a country," Thomas added, noting where America was both economically and in its Cold War with Russia at the time. "The Russian team was supposed to be unbeatable and a team of college kids were able to put it together and basically have a miracle tournament.

"That really is on a whole different, higher level than this series, between Boston and Montreal. If it was the Stanley Cup final, it might be different, but it's the first round. Very, very important, don't get me wrong. But the Miracle on Ice was a totally different beast."

The Bruins watched a movie (not even a Kurt Russell flick) as the team bus weaved its way through the hills to Lake Placid right after Game 3. There was no team practice Tuesday, as mostly players enjoyed the easygoing pace of small-town USA.

And, with two full days before there next battle, there were no fans to pester them and their stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb captain -- at least not even to a fraction of the extent they would have had to deal with in Montreal.

"For our guys it's a great place to be," said coach Claude Julien. "Nice, quiet, there's a great history here."

It's not by chance the Bruins decided on Lake Placid to spend the little break midway through this set. There is a message to be absorbed.

"It was quite a feat," Julien said of the 31-year-old miracle. "I was obviously watching that game as well, and I just couldn't believe what I was seeing.

"It's a great inspirational story, sometimes you hope that you can look back on those things and build on it. I guess believe in what you can accomplish."

Thomas, who didn't become a full-time NHLer until he was 31, is the classic underdog. He growled and showed his teeth Monday. He was weak on both of Montreal's goals, but then came back with a third period performance befitting a goalie who set the single season save percentage record.

"I've let in a lot of goals that make you look bad, over the course of your career," Thomas said. "It forces you to raise your game to make up for the mistake."

The victory snapped Boston's playoff losing streak at six games. It came just in the nick of time.

"If we were down 3-0 right now, it would be not a fun atmosphere to be in," Thomas said. "It's 2-1, we've still got a lot of work ahead of us, but that was the first step and now we can come here for a couple of days, step back and recharge ourselves and get ready to do it again, because it's not easy."

Does the fact they're at the scene of the Miracle on Ice provided added motivation and energy?

"Hard to say," Thomas said, grinning. "We'll see on Thursday."

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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