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The Boston Bruins and U.S. Olympic backup goalie Tim Thomas picked the right time to start heading in the right direction.
Thomas made 37 saves to lead Boston past the New York Islanders 3-2 on Saturday in the opener of the Bruins' season-high seven-game road trip.
Marc Savard scored on a second-period power play, and Milan Lucic and David Krejci also scored for Boston, the lowest-scoring team in the NHL.
The Bruins have won two in a row and six of their last seven to move into seventh in the Eastern Conference with 69 points. They have also taken five straight on the road, including four before the Olympic break.
"I see a bunch of guys who want to get a better finish," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's been a challenging year for us to say the least. There's an opportunity to redeem ourselves. If we're going to do that, it's going to take everybody."
Thomas did his part, holding a team to two goals for the second straight game in place of Tuukka Rask, who had taken over the No. 1 job from Thomas and had made seven straight starts before being sidelined with a knee injury.
Before Thursday's 3-2 shootout win over Toronto, Thomas hadn't won since Jan. 14. He only appeared in one game in a mop-up role at the Vancouver Games.
"I never really got into a rhythm this year," Thomas said. "Whether it was my fault or not, I never completely found it. I wasn't that far off. The Olympics seemed to help a lot. The Olympics were a fantastic experience as far as practicing on a daily basis against great talent. But for me, because I knew Ryan Miller was playing, it was kind of a mental break."
Julien said Rask practiced Saturday morning and is day to day. But Julien was certainly pleased with Thomas' recent work.
"You're not a Vezina Trophy winner and then the next year not a good goaltender," Julien said. "It's just about finding his game."
He seems to have found it. The Islanders, on the other hand, are struggling. Josh Bailey and Matt Moulson scored for New York, which is having its playoff hopes continuing to fade. The Islanders have dropped two straight and 11 of 14, leaving them with 60 points.
Coach Scott Gordon said the Islanders didn't match the Bruins' sense of urgency in the first period, and that mental mistakes hurt in this game and in Thursday's 6-3 loss at Atlanta.
"I'm tired of it," Gordon said. "It's going to stop. I've addressed it with the team."
After Lucic scored for Boston at 18:36 of the first period, the Islanders tied the game at 1-1 at 2:18 of the second period when Mark Streit's power-play point drive got through Thomas and Bailey knocked it into the net.
The Bruins retook the lead at 5:04 when Mark Stuart sent the puck from the left wing down low on the right to Miroslav Satan, and he fed it to an open Krejci in front for the 2-1 lead.
Then 4:16 later, Boston converted again. Patrice Bergeron, who had missed the previous two games with a groin injury, sent a high shot off the glass behind the Islanders' net. Goalie Dwayne Roloson (31 saves) lost sight of the puck, looking to his left. The ricochet came back out to his right, and Savard was there to sweep it into the net and make it a two-goal lead.
"He was actually gloating about that pass," Julien said with a laugh about Bergeron.
Michael Ryder crushed the Islanders' Blake Comeau into the boards and drew a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct at 16:06 of the second.
The Islanders got off five shots on goal before the end of the period but couldn't beat Thomas. The crowd booed as the second came to an end. Boston, which has the top-ranked penalty-killing unit, came out in the third and killed off the remaining 1:06 of the penalty.
But at 5:43 of the third, the Islanders cut it to 3-2. Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk lost the puck in the right corner to Frans Nielsen, who sent it to Moulson, and the left wing buried it to extend his team lead to 23 goals. Thomas and the Bruins, though, held on from there. Game 2 of the trip comes on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
"I'm thinking smaller picture, night-to-night basis right now," Thomas said. "We need to put as many points in the bank as we can to be in the position we want to be at the end of the season."
This program aired on March 7, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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