BOSTON- The Vancouver Canucks entered the night with their lips puckered to kiss the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. The Boston Bruins salted their game.
Boston struck four times in just over four minutes during Monday’s first period to sew the seeds of their 5-2 win over Vancouver.
The victory forced a decisive game, which will be played in Vancouver Wednesday night.
“It’s a great feeling. We battled hard tonight. We came to play and it’s coming down to one game,” the ageless Bruins veteran Mark Recchi said. “This is what we dream of, when you’re little kids playing street hockey, you know, you’re in game 7.”
The bad news began breaking early for Vancouver. Mason Raymond became entangled with Johnny Boychuk in the corner. Raymond lost an edge and skidded tailbone-first into the boards. He remained down for several moments until he was helped off the ice by his linemates. He did not return to the game after he went to the hospital for further evaluation.
There was no specific update on Raymond and even his teammates seemed to be out of the loop regarding his condition.
“I still don’t know what is wrong with him,” Bieksa told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I still don’t know what happened.”
Boston’s Rich Peverley centered a pass that David Krejci redirected just wide of an open Vancouver net as the first solid scoring chance of the contest went for naught.
Boston atoned for the missed opportunity—in a major way.
First, Recchi took the left defenseman out of the play and drop-passed the puck to Brad Marchand, who burst into the offensive zone to score a short-side goal over Luongo’s glove.
“I was surprised. He’s not an easy goalie to beat straight up,” Marchand said. “It was kind of a tough-angle shot there, so I think I just kind of caught him off-guard.”
The goal was Marchand’s ninth, a Bruins rookie playoff record.
“The first few games I was very nervous, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Marchand said. “After that, I kind of calmed down. The guys carry you along so well and make you feel very comfortable, so you adapt pretty quickly.”
A sloppy line change then left the left-wing side vacated. Milan Lucic capitalized, zooming in on Luongo for another near-side tally, this time to his blocker side.
On the heels of surrendering two goals and managing a solitary solid possession, the Canucks went down a man on Alex Edler’s boarding minor against Peverley.
Luongo made a solid save in tons of traffic on Patrice Bergeron. Off the ensuing faceoff, Boston cashed in, heaping a third goal onto their lead. Andrew Ference scored his second goal of the series, and once again it was a skittering shot from near the blue line.
“It started with Rich Peverley winning a big draw,” Recchi said. “I was able to get it back to Andrew. Andrew threw it down to (Michael) Ryder, and then Ryder made a nice play. Andrew made a terrific shot. There were a couple of screens, their player and me.”
The goal chased Luongo from the game. Coach Alain Vigneault quickly quelled any controversy about his starter in the decisive game.
“He’s a professional. His preparation is beyond reproach and he’s going to be
ready for Game 7,” Vigneault said.
His replacement, Cory Schneider did not fare much better immediately. A failed clearing attempt wound up on the stick of Tomas Kaberle, whose long, low shot was tipped in by Michael Ryder.
“It was do or die for us. We wanted to make sure we got off to a good start and we wanted to get the fans behind us,” Ryder said.
Boston’s four goals in 4:14 shattered the record for the fastest four goals scored in Stanley Cup Finals history. The old mark of 5:29 by the Montreal Canadiens stood for 55 years.
“Getting that fourth goal was a big goal, 3-0 lead, we had bad experiences with in
the past,” Thomas said, drawing laughter from those who remembered the Bruins collapse from a 3-0 lead in game 7 of an Eastern Conference Semifinals series they had also led 3-0 against the Philadelphia Flyers last season.
On another power play, Lucic and Krejci each had point-blank chances with Schneider moving side to side. Schneider made a stunning pad save on Lucic while Sami Salo erased Krejci’s shot from the stat sheet with a diving block.
Not to be forgotten, the leading Conn Smythe Trophy candidate Tim Thomas made a spectacular save on Ryan Kesler’s wraparound attempt. Thomas was sliding back into his net and reaching over with his goal stick.
He later made a brilliant glove save on Alex Burrows in tight after the strongest Vancouver attack of the first period.
“He’s been in the zone for the whole playoffs and you can barely count on one hand how many bad goals he’s given up in this whole playoffs,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said.
“We all know the teams that normally win the Stanley Cup usually have unbelievable goaltending. We feel like we’ve got that.”
Boston carried their commanding four-goal lead into the second intermission.
A minor penalty to Bergeron sent Vancouver the power play. A left-point shot dinged the post and Ryan Kesler could not extend far enough to push home an obese rebound.
The snake-bit Canucks failed to cash in again when what would have been a tap-in goal hit the skate of Jannik Hansen off a centering pass from Kesler.
The Bruins weathered nearly five shorthanded minutes in the middle stanza to maintain their 4-0 lead.
A bit of over-aggressiveness stung the Bruins in the opening moments of the third period. Zdeno Chara and Recchi pinched at the blue line to nail Daniel Sedin. The puck went forward and the play ended when Henrik Sedin lifted the puck over a pile of three diving Bruins to break up Thomas’s shutout.
The goal marked Henrik Sedin’s first point of the series. He collected a turnover behind the net and nearly set up Hansen to make the contest interesting. Hansen hit the inside of the post as confirmed by video review.
During a five-on-three power play, Schneider stoned Recchi, who proceeded to set up Krejci for a goal seconds later. The strike beat Vancouver back to a four-goal deficit.
“Recchi’s awesome. He’s been playing well all series, scoring goals, making plays, hitting and he’s been doing everything,” Krejci said. “He’s already won the Cup and he’s done every single thing you can do.”
A nifty three-man play with time winding down afforded Maxim Lapierre his second goal of the series, albeit a much less significant one that his game-winner Friday.
The game ended with a bit of excitement that had little impact on the outcome. There were fisticuffs and the game concluded with the Canucks’ pulling their goalie to gain a six-on-three advantage during a power play.
When asked why he hit Daniel Sedin during a scrum, Marchand responded: “I felt like it.”
The home team has won every game in the series thus far, with Boston absolutely exploding offensively at home. They have twice chased Roberto Luongo from games in Boston, while he has twice blanked them en route to 1-0 wins in Vancouver.
When asked to explain the gaping disparities in his team’s play from venue to venue or any other befuddling flaw in his team’s play, Vigneault offered the same answer at every turn.
“It doesn’t really matter,” Vigneault said. “At the end of the day, they won and we’re going back home in front of our fans for a one-game showdown to win the Cup. That’s it.”
This exhilarating series now heads back to Vancouver, where the Bruins will play in the first Stanley Cup Finals game 7 in their history and the Canucks will have another shot at capturing their franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
“It’s been a long time since there’s been a Cup here (since 1972) but Vancouver’s never won one so we’re both in a very difficult situation and we both want it really bad,” Marchand said.