Tim Thomas picks up win in return to NHL

Bruce Bennett

Tim Thomas returned to the NHL on Thursday night and stopped 25 shots in a 4-2 Florida Panthers win.

Tim Thomas made his return to the NHL on Thursday night following a one-year sabbatical and played like he never left.

The 39-year-old Thomas, making his debut with the Florida Panthers, stopped 25 of the 27 shots he faced in a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars, earning his first win in the NHL since April 7, 2012.

Thomas, a Conn Smythe winner on Boston's 2011 Stanley Cup team and the best goaltender in the NHL during his peak with the Bruins, sat out the 2012-13 season so he could, in his words, focus on his friends, family and faith. During the season, he was actually traded to the New York Islanders in a move done purely for paperwork purposes so the Bruins could create additional cap space and the Islanders could remain above the NHL's salary floor.

The Islanders allowed him to become a free agent following the season. Thomas then decided he was ready to return to the NHL and joined the Panthers on a tryout contract, eventually earning a one-year deal and the opening-night start.

It remains to be seen how he will hold up over the course of an 82-game season, not only because of the one-year break, but also because he turns 40 in April. Most goaltenders don't hold up well at this stage of their career. Then again, Thomas isn't like most goaltenders. Between the 2007 and 2012 seasons, Thomas posted a .927 save percentage, good enough for third-best in the NHL behind only his teammate in Boston, Tuukka Rask, and Vancouver's Cory Schneider.

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