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Wins matter most to Thomas; His percentage `slips' to .737.

Byline: Rich Garven

BOSTON - Tim Thomas was leading the NHL in goals-against average (1.82), save percentage (.945) and shutouts (seven) entering yesterday's game with the San Jose Sharks.

Those are impressive numbers, but not the most meaningful to the veteran goalie.

"Winning percentage," Thomas responded when asked what stat he has taken the most pride in during a remarkable season, which has the Bruins positioned for a Stanley Cup run and Thomas under consideration for the Vezina (top goalie), Hart (MVP) and Masterson (perseverance/comeback) trophies.

Unfortunately for Thomas, his winning percentage took a slight dip to a still-impressive .737 as the Bruins lost to the Sharks, 2-0, at TD Garden.

Former Worcester farmhand Ryan Couture scored early, and San Jose added a late empty-netter in a tightly played game that saw the two teams combine for 44 shots, just 18 of which came off the Sharks' sticks.

"I mean, they probably played the safest out of any team we played this year as far as not taking any chances, making sure that they got the puck deep instead of trying to make a play," said Thomas, who remained stuck on 25 wins, one behind league-leading Carey Price of Montreal, after losing for just the second time in 15 games (10-2-3).

"Sometimes it's tough and makes it hard to generate offense, but defensively we played the right game," Thomas said. "We stayed tight defensively so that we made sure we stayed close in the game and waited for our opportunities. We just never got the opportunities that we needed to score."

Thomas was both steady and spectacular during this lethargic somnolent matinee, the latter coming when he made a sprawling glove save on Devin Setoguchi with 3:46 to play to keep the Bruins' hopes alive. Setoguchi, apparently not to be denied, scored into an empty net with 2.1 seconds to play.

Couture potted the winner at 7:22 of the first period when he rifled a backhander past Thomas for his team-leading 23rd goal of the season.

It came with the Bruins found themselves defending an odd-man rush after getting caught on a line change 15 seconds short of killing a penalty for too many men on the ice.

"They're funny shots, and you don't get a lot of practice against them even in practice, and he got off a pretty good shot," Thomas said of backhanders. "He was coming right across the slot, too, which is a good spot where goalies have to change angles, you have to move. If he's off to either one side or the other, you can get your angle and just butterfly and let it hit you."

Thomas, playing in his 300th career NHL game, also caught a break when rookie defenseman Steven Kampfer swept a puck out of the crease that had somehow gotten behind Thomas with about 12 minutes to play.

"It never made it to me," Thomas said. "It hit and bounced around me. I think it was a shot from the point that hit the guy in front of me and maybe another guy. That was a great job. He had a good stick; he made a couple of good plays defensively today."

NAME: BOSTON BRUINS
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 6, 2011
Words:539
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