Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, left, makes a stick save as Ottawa Senators\' Milan Mihalek looks for a rebound during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Saturday, April 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
BOSTON - Tim Thomas looked at a yellow piece of paper with his updated save percentage scribbled on it and broke into a smile, knowing he can now set a league save percentage record.
"That's great. Awesome," he said after making 31 saves in Boston's 3-1 win over Ottawa on Saturday afternoon. "To be completely honest, I had a hard time getting it completely out of my mind the last couple of days."
Thomas increased his save percentage to .938—surpassing Dominik Hasek's .937 set in 1998-89. If he doesn't play the regular season finale Sunday, the record is his.
"I think it's the most reflective overall (of a goaltender's season), but certainly not a perfect number," Thomas said. "But overall it's still the most important number."
Boston coach Claude Julien said Thomas would not start the regular season finale.
"He's had a good year for us," Julien said. "I think deep down it seemed to matter to him, so it was important to the rest of our team to help him do it and play as best we could."
Nathan Horton scored a tie-breaking goal early in the second period and the Bruins posted their seventh win in 10 games, leaving them in contention for the Eastern Conference's second seed with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Boston would have to win Sunday in New Jersey to have any chance, but also needs some help.
The Senators missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, and head coach Cory Clouston and two assistants were fired after the loss.
Daniel Paille and Rich Peverley had Boston's other goals and the Bruins completed the season series 5-1 against Ottawa.
Bobby Butler scored for the Senators and Curtis McElhinney had 26 saves.
As Boston gets ready for its opening-round series, the Senators fired head coach Cory Clouston and his assistants Greg Carvel and Brad Lauer. GM Bryan Murray was given a three-year extension this week.
Before being dismissed Clouston said, "I can't control that obviously. I've been here with the organization 2 1/2 years. We had some key injuries. Take away about a 23-game stint, I did a good job, I thought, of turning the team around."
Clouston told the team that he was glad they didn't let down during a tough season.
"I told the guys I'm really proud of how they played the last 27 games," he said. "I'm really proud of them."
The Senators won 15 of their last 27.
"For me, it was just a matter of taking the success we had the last 25 games. We have to build on that," said regular starting goaltender Craig Anderson, who had the game off. "Obviously, its not good missing the playoffs."
Six seconds after Ryan Shannon was given a double minor for high-sticking defenceman Adam McQuaid, Horton collected the rebound of Zdeno Chara's shot from the point, spun and slid a backhander into the net to move Boston ahead 1:08 into the second period.
Peverley made it 3-1 with a backhander in the slot with 5:08 left in the game.
The Bruins had jumped in front 1-0 when Paille redirected Gregory Campbell's pass from the edge of the crease 12:53 into the game. Campbell quickly collected a rebound of Shawn Thornton's shot at the side of the net and delivered a perfect feed in front.
The Senators tied it late in the first period when Butler scored off the rebound of his own shot when Thomas collided with a pair of players in front and ended up leaving the net wide open.
Notes: Boston RW Mark Recchi played his 1,652nd game, passing Chris Chelios for fourth on the career list. ... The Bruins snapped an 0 for 12 power-play drought with Horton's goal. ... Julien said after the game that Recchi and Chara will not make the trip to New Jersey. ... Bruins C Patrice Bergeron and D Dennis Seidenberg were rested and healthy scratches. ... Jason Spezza (21) finished as the only Senators' player with 20 or more goals this season. ... Ottawa went 2-26-2 this season when trailing after two periods. ... Julien bought six tickets and treated a family that had lost their home in a fire in late December. ... The Bruins gave the jerseys off their backs to fans after the game as part of fan appreciation day.